David Coulthard ‘really disappointed on a number of things’ after the Saudi Arabian GP
The only deserved penalty at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix would have belonged to the FIA for deploying the Safety Car when Lance Stroll “couldn’t get any further off the track if he’d tried”, says David Coulthard.
Sunday’s race around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit saw Aston Martin in the headlines as Fernando Alonso was penalised for a grid box infringement and his team-mate Stroll retired, bringing out a controversial Safety Car.
But it didn’t end there as Alonso, having already celebrated on the podium, was then hit with a 10-second penalty for his rear jack operator touching his car when he came in to service his grid box penalty.
That decision came after the podium but before the FIA’s official post-race press conference with Alonso in the first and George Russell, elevated to P3, attending the latter.
The drama, though, wasn’t over as three hours later with Aston Martin having appealed, the stewards overturned Alonso’s 10-second penalty based on the ambiguous wording of the ‘worked on’ car regulation.
Coulthard weighed in on the night’s various incidents, starting with Alonso’s grid box penalty with the Spaniard ruled to have been too far over to the left.
“I’m really disappointed on a number of things,” he told Channel 4. “I think it’s about consistency.
“If you’re stealing a length then that’s fair enough but if you’re left or right there is no advantage in being left or right.
“The rubber that’s been laid down by Porsche Supercup, F2 and F3, is in the middle so an oversight from Fernando – he takes that on the chin.”
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‘Lance couldn’t get any further off the track if he’d tried’
The former F1 driver was also perplexed by Race Control’s decision to bring out the Safety Car when Stroll was told to stop his car immediately.
That happened on lap 18, the Canadian pulling halfway down an escape road with his AMR23 well away from the track.
It opened the door for those who hadn’t yet pitted, such as Max Verstappen, to grab a free stop with the Dutchman leapfrogging the Ferraris, as too did Lewis Hamilton.
Coulthard reckons all that was required was a Virtual Safety Car.
“Let’s be realistic as to where the real penalty should be,” he continued. “Safety Car. Lance couldn’t get any further off the track if he’d tried and they said they needed camera angles to tell us. I’m sorry, but they’ve got more camera angles than we’ve got cameras.
“I just find that a little bit frustrating because a Virtual Safety Car would have been fine.”
Aston Martin didn’t work on the car, it was a ‘tiny little touch’
The Scot also believes the stewards got it wrong when it came to Alonso’s post-race penalty with Aston Martin deemed to have worked on the car when the rear jackman slid the jack underneath his car as he stopped.
The team then paused for the five seconds, went onto change Alonso’s tyres, and he raced his way to third place with seemingly no issues.
However, on the penultimate lap Mercedes informed Russell that Alonso could have another penalty for the team working on his car, that subsequently confirmed by the stewards only to later be rescinded.
Coulthard wasn’t impressed with how that played out, especially the time lapse between Alonso’s pit stop and the penalty being announced.
“And then finally, after the podium, we get the 10-second penalty for a touch of the car,” he said. “It wasn’t working on the car, a tiny little touch and watch the rear jackman, he moves into position.
“They haven’t gained an advantage, I would say, and what it has done is stolen and affected the podium, that the podium we’ve seen is not the podium that should have been if we had that information a minute or so before.
“Not even a minute, 35 laps as Fernando said to come up with that solution. Even George Russell says it’s harsh.”
Fernando Alonso saw the ‘bigger picture’
But while Alonso wasn’t happy with the timing of the penalty, calling that a “poor show” from the FIA, he was pragmatic.
“It doesn’t hurt much, to be honest,” he told Sky Sports before the penalty was overturned.
“I was on the podium, I did the pictures, did the trophy, celebrated with the champagne and yeah, now I have apparently three points less – I don’t have 15, I have 12.”
Coulthard reckons he could adopt that attitude because he knows more podiums are going to come this season.
“I think he’s seeing the big picture,” said the former McLaren and Red Bull driver. “He’s seeing he’s got a quick car, there’s going to be many more podiums to come.”