FIA explain why Alonso pit-stop release was safe

Jamie Woodhouse
Fernando Alonso's Alpine at the Austrian GP. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

Fernando Alonso's Alpine at the Austrian Grand Prix. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

The FIA gave a detailed explanation as to why they took no further action over Fernando Alonso allegedly leaving the pits with an unsafe car.

After making a pit stop in Austria, the stewards noted that the front-left tyre on Alonso’s Alpine had come slightly loose, triggering a post-race investigation as to whether the Spaniard had been released back into the race with a tyre which was not correctly attached.

After analysing the situation in detail, including the use of CCTV in the pit lane and inspections of the car, it was determined that a “parts failure” was the likely cause of the issue, rather than an error from the team.

In their report, the stewards state: “Alonso made a pit stop at 16:12 during the Virtual Safety Car due to the incident at Turn 4. The left front wheel subsequently came loose by a small margin and the stewards investigated to see if the car was “released in an unsafe condition” which is a potential breach of Article 34.14 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.

“The stewards reviewed multiple angles of video of the pit stop, including pit lane CCTV, CCTV from over the pit stop location and in-car footage. There is nothing in the video to indicate that the pit stop was anything other than a normal pit stop, including that the wheel concerned appears to fully engage and become fully tight.

“The team manager reported that the mechanic fitting the wheel reported that everything felt normal, and indeed his body language on the video appears completely normal. Nothing appears to be wrong until just before Turn 3, where the wheel slightly disengages from the car, by a very small amount.

“Shortly after Turn 3 the driver states on the radio that they will need to box again. When asked by the crew the driver simply reported that they needed to box again. In the hearing, the driver stated that he cannot see the rim of the wheel and that all he felt was a small vibration. This is consistent with the video, in that the movement of the tyre was hardly distinguishable.

“After entering the pit lane, the driver stated ‘check left front.’ In the hearing he stated that it felt worse when he turned to the right than when he turned to the left, but that there was still nothing obvious from his vantage point.

“After the race, the left front wheel with the tyre and the axel were inspected by the Technical Delegate and the Head of Single Seater Technical Affairs. They reported to the stewards that the damage to the wheel and axel is consistent with a parts failure in all likelihood subsequent to the exit of the car from the pits.

“Based on the footage of the car from the moment the wheel was fitted, until the failure became apparent, the stewards conclude that the wheel was fully fitted, and that subsequent to the failure, all the retention systems worked as designed. The stewards therefore conclude that the car was not released in an unsafe condition and take no further action.”

That verdict means Alonso keeps his point for a P10 finish, a solid recovery drive having started the race down in P19. Esteban Ocon crossed the line P5 in the other Alpine.