Jean Alesi calls F1 fans ‘the judge, the absolute protagonist’ after Aus GP criticism

Michelle Foster
Fernando Alonso faces backwards after being spun by Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz. Australia April 2023.

Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso is spun backwards after tangling with Carlos Sainz. Australia April 2023.

Jean Alesi reckons Formula 1 fans have become “the judge, the absolute protagonist” when it comes to debating the FIA’s decision-making.

As for where he stands on the second red flag at the Australian Grand Prix, he believes that was the right call and that Carlos Sainz deserved his penalty for triggering the restart carnage that eliminated four cars from the race.

Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix went from an easy Max Verstappen win to controversy when the red flag was waved on lap 55 in response to Kevin Magnussen’s Turn 2 crash.

The FIA cited “debris” as the reason what had begun as a Safety Car became a red flag stoppage but some drivers and fans have criticised the decision.

Race winner Verstappen felt it created the “mess” that was the restart, adding: “I just didn’t understand why we needed a red flag.

“I think if we would have had a Safety Car and then just have a normal rolling start, we wouldn’t have had all these shunts. And then you have a normal finish. So they created the problems themselves.”

Alesi, however, believes the red flag was necessary given the debris left behind from Magnussen’s stricken Haas.

He told Corriere dello Sport: “I understand the impression of having seen a chaotic race but I don’t share the objections. In my opinion, the Race Director applied the regulations perfectly.

“On a track like Melbourne, when gravel and other debris is on the track, red flags are a must as happened with the accidents involving [Alex] Albon and Magnussen.

“There are no alternatives as the risks for those who racing are high.”

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There are, however, many fans who don’t agree with Alesi on this point and have been vocal in their criticism of the Race Director’s decision to red flag the race.

The former Ferrari driver reckons those voices have grown louder in recent years following on from the farcical 2021 Belgian Grand Prix and that year’s controversial Abu Dhabi finale.

“The fact is that after that race-non-race in Spa and after the Abu Dhabi 2021 finale, the huge crowd became the judge, the absolute protagonist.

“This widens and multiplies the debate.”

“But,” he added, “I don’t always think it’s appropriate to dispute who manages the tenders, especially when there are concrete reasons to decree a neutralisation.”

The Frenchman also weighed in on Sainz’s five-second penalty for being “wholly to blame” for his restart collision with Alonso.

While Sainz, Ferrari and even Alonso believe it was too harsh, Alesi says it was deserved.

“I think the penalty imposed on Sainz is also understandable,” he continued. “As happens in football or other sports, a penalty can also come at the end of the match in the face of an impropriety.

“And, honestly, it was Sainz who made a mistake shortly after the second restart.”