Fernando Alonso is 100 per cent behind Pierre Gasly, adamant the issue shouldn’t have been the Frenchman’s speed behind the Safety Car but that there was a tractor on the track.
Racing on a sodden Suzuka circuit, the Safety Car was out almost immediately when Carlos Sainz crashed on the opening lap with other drivers also involved in incidents.
Gasly was one of those, the AlphaTauri driver collecting the advertising board that Sainz had dislodged which meant he had to come into the pits for an unscheduled stop.
Back out on track he hit speeds of 250km/h as tried to catch the rear of the field, flying past the tractor that was on the track to recover Sainz’s car.
He was furious: “What is this tractor on track? This is unacceptable!”
But while Gasly raged at Race Control for having a recovery vehicle in play when the drivers could barely see in front of them, the stewards summoned him to their office for speeding.
He was slapped with a 20-second time penalty, and two penalty points for going “at speeds which exceeded 200 km/h on multiple occasions”.
Alonso feels the stewards missed the point, the problem wasn’t Gasly’s speed, it was the tractor.
“Totally supporting Pierre,” said the double World Champion. “We are in the car, we know the speed we are doing, we know when we are in control.
“What we don’t expect is to see a tractor on the circuit, so that’s something that nothing to blame Pierre.”
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) October 9, 2022
The FIA have said they will conduct a “thorough review” of the tractor incident, every one of the drivers passing it while they were under Safety Car conditions.
But even then Alonso says he couldn’t see it.
“I still don’t know where Carlos was,” he said as per Autosport. “I didn’t see the tractor. There was no visibility.
“Behind the Safety Car, I could not see the tractor, I didn’t see Carlos, so obviously it was the low point of the race and we need to understand that. It was a difficult afternoon for everyone.
“We are here to help the FIA but after 2014 we agreed it would never happen again and it happened, so we need to work together to make sure this is the last, last, last.”
Back in 2014 Jules Bianchi crashed into a recovery vehicle in the wet at Suzuka, the Marussia driver suffering a diffuse axonal injury.
He never regained consciousness, passing away nine months after the crash.
“We need to understand why the tractor was there, who made the decision, who made that call, if they misunderstood something and whether the tractor was out without permission from the race director,” Alonso added.
“So until we find the full explanation, which we will require, we cannot comment too much.”