Fernando Alonso’s seventh place finish at the United States Grand Prix has been reinstated after the FIA reversed its decision to hand him a 30-second post-race penalty.
Following a protest from Haas over the right wing mirror falling off Alonso’s Alpine, the Formula 1 stewards determined that Alonso’s car was in an unsafe condition.
They handed Alonso a 30-second time penalty in lieu of a 10-second stop-and-go penalty despite race control not acting during the grand prix itself.
Though such a penalty itself cannot be appealed, Alpine launched a counter protest over whether Haas’s original protest was actually admissible given it had gone in outside the usual deadline.
This was rejected late on Thursday night at the Mexican GP, but Alpine then launched a ‘right to review’ of the penalty, which proved successful.
The decision promotes Alonso from 15th place back to the seventh place where he finished on the road at Austin, having recovered well from a crash with Lance Stroll that sent him airborne.
As part of its response to the decision, Alpine said it would work with the FIA to maintain the quality of the “racing spectacle” of the championship.
“BWT Alpine F1 Team thanks the FIA stewards for convening and reaching a positive conclusion on the matter involving Car #14 from last weekend’s United States Grand Prix,” a statement from Alpine read.
“The team welcomes the decision made by the aforementioned stewards, whereby Car #14 reinstates its seventh place finish and six points from the race.
“We look forward to continuing our collaborative work alongside the FIA to ensure the racing spectacle is maintained to the highest quality.
“The team now looks forward to competing this weekend at the Mexico City Grand Prix.”
As part of Alpine’s counter-protest against Haas’s original protest, the team claimed Haas lodging the protest 24 minutes after the usual 30-minute deadline meant it shouldn’t have been accepted.
The FIA was already aware of this and revealed the deadline wasn’t met because Haas was seeking clarification before lodging the protest.
Alpine’s protest was also outside of the deadline window and was deemed not admissible in the first video conference on Thursday evening.
Alpine then petitioned the stewards for a review of the original penalty to determine if a significant and relevant new element has been discovered which was not available to Alpine at the time of the decision taken to find the Haas protest admissible.
Its case centred on the decision to allow Haas to lodge a protest outside the 30-minute deadline, challenging the initial ruling that it had been “impossible” for Haas to do so.
According to the documents from the review hearing, Alpine sporting director Alan Permane argued that “the word “impossible” sets a very ‘high bar’ – the Oxford Dictionary defines it as being something that cannot happen or be achieved and that in this case, there was nothing preventing Haas from lodging the protest within the 30-minute deadline” as it could have done so with a handwritten protest.
Haas team manager Peter Crolla acknowledged that this was the case, and that his team would have done this “had it not been told by the FIA official in race control that it had an hour” to get its protest in.
The Mexican GP stewards accepted “the argument of Alpine that the word ‘impossible’ indeed sets a very high bar and that in hindsight, that very high bar was not met in this case” and that a handwritten protest could have been submitted in time, meaning Haas’s first protest was “not admissible” and the penalty decision “is rendered null and void”.
The FIA therefore overturned Alonso’s penalty late on Thursday night in Mexico and reinstated him to seventh.
Alpine had also argued that the race control official who extended the deadline did not have the power to do so, which Haas countered on the grounds that “stewards could use their discretion on these matters as they had ‘supreme authority’ over the application of the rules and had the power under the ISC [International Sporting Code] to ‘settle any matter'”.
As part of the FIA’s ruling, it also promised a review into the black and orange flag procedure after the US GP officials elected not to show Alonso one despite Haas – recipient of the black and orange flag on three prior occasions in 2022 – repeatedly flagging the damage on the Alpine to race control.
“The stewards are, notwithstanding the above determinations, concerned that car 14 was permitted to remain on track with a mirror assembly hanging loose which finally fell off, and strongly recommends procedures be put in place to monitor such matters and where necessary, require the problem to be rectified as has been done multiple times in the past, through either a radio call to the team or display of the black and orange flag, requiring the car to return to the pits for the problem to be repaired,” wrote the Mexico stewards.
“Teams also have a responsibility under the FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations article 3.2.
“We also understand the FIA president has initiated a review into the use of the black and orange flag.”
The decision follows Alonso calling F1’s ‘direction’ into question in light of the saga and saying Thursday would be “an important day for the championship”.
The cancellation of the penalty allows Alpine to double its gap over McLaren to 12 points in their fight for fourth place in the constructors’ championship.