‘Dastardly tricks’ v ‘racing’ – Damon Hill’s verdict on controversial Fernando Alonso penalty

Michelle Foster
Fernando Alonso sat with his helmet off in the cockpit of his Aston Martin AMR24

Fernando Alonso in his Aston Martin

Damon Hill reckons preventing drivers from doing “anything unexpected”, which Fernando Alonso was penalised in Australia for, is “not really racing”.

Taking the chequered flag in sixth place at the Australian Grand Prix, Alonso was slapped with a 20-second penalty after the race for “potentially dangerous” driving.

Fernando Alonso disagreed with the stewards’ ruling

That related to his penultimate lap antics as he tried to fend off George Russell for sixth place, Alonso taking a different approach into Turn 6. But it was one that caught out the Mercedes diver resulting in him crashing.

Called to see the stewards after the Grand Prix, Alonso told them he’d braked early for Turn 6 in order to get a better entry out of the corner.

But, having misjudged and braked too early, he then accelerated again before braking. With Russell sitting on his rear wing, the Briton suddenly lost downforce and control of his W15.

Alonso, a veteran of almost 400 Grands Prix, was perplexed by the stewards’ verdict.

“A bit surprised by a penalty at the end of the race regarding how we should approach the corners or how we should drive the race cars,” he wrote on X. “At no point do we want to do anything wrong at these speeds.

“In F1, with over 20 years of experience, with epic duels like Imola 2005/2006/Brazil 2023, changing racing lines, sacrificing entry speed to have good exits from corners is part of the art of motorsport.

“We never drive at 100 percent every race lap and every corner, we save fuel, tyres, brakes, so being responsible for not making every lap the same is a bit surprising.”

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‘Gamesmanship has to be part of Formula 1 racing’

1996 World Champion Hill agrees with the Spaniard that being banned from doing the unexpected, “gamesmanship” as he put it, goes against racing.

“George got surprised, it looked to me that he was very surprised to find the closing speed to Fernando to be so great,” he told the F1 Nation podcast.

“Or he just got too close, he was pushing too hard and got understeer because he was under his rear gearbox.

“I do think this is where we get into the difficult area of what is racing and what is dastardly tricks.

“I think you have to assume that the FIA want to stop people doing things that are potentially dangerous, but then it is dangerous! Motor racing is dangerous.

“You have to be careful when you’re going for a move on someone, if you’re closing on them you’ve got to be prepared for them to do things that are gamesmanship.

“I just think this has to be part of the sport, being wary of an individual because they’ve got form or they’re clever or whatever.

“I just think the idea that you’ve got to stop people from doing anything unexpected, that’s not really racing.”

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