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Alonso hit with post-race time penalty in Australia over ‘potentially dangerous’ driving before Russell crash

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Aston Martin AMR24

Fernando Alonso has been given a 20-second time penalty following the Australian Grand Prix after the stewards determined that his driving before George Russell crashed out of proceedings was “potentially dangerous”.

Mercedes driver Russell had been hunting down Alonso with fresher tyres in the closing stages of the race and approached the rear of his relatively slow-moving Aston Martin rival at the Turn 6/7 complex on the final lap, subsequently losing control and slamming into the barriers.

READ MORE: Sainz storms to victory amid drama in Australia as Verstappen retires and Russell crashes out

The stewards noted the incident in the minutes after the race and, after reviewing the footage available and speaking to both drivers, handed Alonso a drive-through penalty that is converted to 20 seconds, dropping him from sixth to eighth place – promoting team mate Lance Stroll and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda.

Speaking immediately after the race, Russell had commented: “I really don’t know what happened, to be honest. I was half a second behind Fernando on the entry of the corner and then suddenly, before the apex, I was right on his gearbox and lost the car, ran wide.”

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In a lengthy document, the stewarding panel – which this weekend included former F1 driver Johnny Herbert – explained the reasons behind their decision to penalise Alonso.

“Alonso explained to the stewards that he intended to approach Turn 6 differently, lifting earlier, and with less speed into the corner, to get a better exit,” read the stewards’ report.

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“Russell explained to the stewards that from his perspective, Alonso’s manoeuvre was erratic, took him by surprise and caused him to close distance unusually fast, and with the resulting lower downforce at the apex of the corner, he lost control and crashed at the exit of the corner. There was no contact between the cars.

“Telemetry shows that Alonso lifted slightly more than 100m earlier than he ever had going into that corner during the race. He also braked very slightly at a point that he did not usually brake (although the amount of brake was so slight that it was not the main reason for his car slowing) and he downshifted at a point he never usually downshifted. He then upshifted again, and accelerated to the corner before lifting again to make the corner.

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“Alonso explained that while his plan was to slow earlier, he got it slightly wrong and had to take extra steps to get back up to speed. Nonetheless, this manoeuvre created a considerable and unusual closing speed between the cars.

“In considering the matter the stewards focused solely on the wording of the regulation which states: ‘At no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person.’”

READ MORE: Verstappen explains ‘really weird’ cause of early retirement from Australian Grand Prix

“Specifically, in this case, the stewards have not considered the consequences of the crash. Further, the stewards considered that they do not have sufficient information to determine whether Alonso’s manoeuvre was intended to cause Russell problems, or whether as he stated to the stewards that he simply was trying to get a better exit.

“Should Alonso have the right to try a different approach to the corner? Yes. Should Alonso be responsible for dirty air, that ultimately caused the incident? No.

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“However, did he choose to do something, with whatever intent, that was extraordinary, i.e. lifting, braking, downshifting and all the other elements of the manoeuvre over 100m earlier than previously, and much greater than was needed to simply slow earlier for the corner? Yes, by his own account of the incident he did.

“In the opinion of the stewards by doing these things, he drove in a manner that was at very least ‘potentially dangerous’ given the very high speed nature of that point of the track.

READ MORE: Hamilton brands Melbourne weekend ‘a real struggle’ even before Lap 17 retirement

“This season, the FIA Formula 1 penalty guidelines, including for this breach, have been reset and increased to a baseline of a 10s penalty. In addition, when there is some aggravating circumstance, we consider a drive-through penalty.

“In this case we consider that Alonso affirmatively choosing to perform an unusual manoeuvre at this point to be an aggravating circumstance, as opposed to a simple mistake.”

In addition to the drive-through, Alonso was given three penalty points on his licence.

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