A ‘lesser driver’ than Fernando Alonso would have retired at COTA

Michelle Foster
Fernando Alonso in the garage. Spain May 2022.

Airborne in a crash that left him with a feeling of “fear” in his stomach, David Coulthard says that Fernando Alonso continued at the United States GP speaks to his “mindset” and commitment.

The double World Champion suffered a scary high-speed crash at the Circuit of The Americas.

Bunched up and accelerating after a Safety Car restart, he clipped the rear of Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin as the Canadian made a late defensive move.

With his A522 pointing towards the sky, Alonso made a hard landing in which he also hit the Armco barrier as he touched down.

“When I was in the air, I was a bit scared because it was very dangerous,” said the Spaniard. “When I landed on the asphalt, I thought it was race over.”

Amazingly it wasn’t, his A522 able to continue.

He headed into the pits for a new front wing and was there for the restart after the debris field was cleared, Alonso racing his way to seventh place.

“It was my best race of the season, but the fear is still in my stomach,” he added to DAZN. “After the crash, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the race. I just wanted to finish the race.”

Coulthard reckons that he even thought to continue highlights the double World Champion’s mettle.

“I think a lesser driver might have just parked it up,” the former F1 driver told Channel 4.

“They would have been ‘well I’ve been in the air, I’ve bounced off a barrier, I should retire the car’ but he’s just not part of his mindset.

“That’s why he’s committed to Formula One going forward at 41 years old. That’s why he’s still a desirable driver.”

The Scot added “a lot of the youngsters can can certainly take a lesson from that.”

Alonso was later stripped of his points, the driver handed a 30-second time penalty after the stewards agreed with a protest from Haas that his car was unsafe and that he should have been shown the black and orange flag because of his loose mirror that subsequently fell off.

Alpine are protesting Haas’ protest, the matter to be heard on Thursday in Mexico.

Rules are rules irrespective of the drive

Just as a penalty for causing a collision isn’t allowed to be based on the severity of the crash or the possible consequences had the racing gods not intervened, a car is either safe or it is not, it either has two mirrors or it does not, and how absolutely heroically epic the driver’s drive was doesn’t factor.

Here’s the rule: “14.2.1 All cars must have two mirrors positioned symmetrically about the car’s centre plane and
mounted so that the driver has visibility to the rear and both sides of the car.”

It says “two”, there must be two, and Alonso’s car did not finish the race with two.

Don’t get me wrong, the Alonso penalty annoys me – a lot. The driver himself did nothing wrong, it was up to the team to pit him for repairs and either replace the mirror or retire the car.

And if the team wasn’t going to take action then it was up to Race Control, who also did nothing. Even the stewards had a go at them for that, they’re in charge of the black and orange flag.

Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer can say that it was “obvious accident damage” and that “cars are allowed to finish with accident damage, it happens all the time.” But tell that to Guenther Steiner.

Kevin Magnussen has thrice been shown the black and orange flag this season, all three times because his front wing endplate was hanging off the side.

Yet Alonso was allowed to drive with his mirror hanging off the side, a mirror that eventually fell off and could have hit another driver.

Remember Hungary 2009? Felipe Massa does, and that was a suspension spring, nothing near the size of a mirror but still something that could get through the Halo.

There was two issues on Sunday, none of them Alonso’s fault but F1 rules pretty much always dictate that the driver and his points-tally carry the punishment.

Alonso may not have the points but as was pointed out on social media: “The streets will remember”.

Read more: Fernando Alonso: Appeal ruling will dictate if we are going in the right direction