Martin Brundle scoffs at Fernando Alonso’s ‘saintly halo’ after ‘same playbook’ at Nurburgring 2003

Michelle Foster
Fernando Alonso, 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. F1 news

Fernando Alonso has been linked to multiple seats at the end of 2024.

Martin Brundle says Fernando Alonso used “exactly the same playbook” on George Russell in Australia as he did with David Coulthard back at the Nurburgring in 2003.

That Sunday, McLaren driver Coulthard was fighting Alonso for fourth place only to have the Renault driver suddenly slow in the middle of the track forcing Coulthard to take avoiding action.

‘We’ve seen Alonso do that before in Nurburgring in 2003’

Crashing out of the Grand Prix, the Scot hinted at Alonso brake testing him as he went into the “middle of the circuit and lifted off the power”. And did so more than once during their tussle.

Alonso blamed car troubles with Coulthard saying to that: “I’m not trying to do the ‘he’s an idiot and I’m going to sort him out’ bit, because he may genuinely have been having problems, but it was inconsistent the problem he was having.”

Fast forward two decades and Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix saw a similar incident, this time Alonso initially blaming his “battery or deployment” as he braked earlier than he’d done previously into Turn 6 on the penultimate lap, which led to Russell suddenly losing downforce and crashing.

However, later speaking to the stewards, Alonso told them he changed his braking point as he wanted to get a better exit out of the Turn 6 corner.

They sanctioned him under Article 33.4 of the FIA Sporting Regulations for driving in a “manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers”. Alonso was given a 20-second time penalty and three points on his super licence.

Brundle says it was the “same playbook” he used back in 2003.

“Alonso had gotten ahead of Russell due to a fast pit stop under the virtual safety car deployed when Hamilton’s Merc ground to a halt. Russell had caught back up and was shaping up for an overtake for several laps,” the former F1 driver wrote in his post-Australia column for Sky Sports.

“Alonso claimed on the radio that he’d a throttle issue of some kind which is why he was slower than normal on the T6 corner.

“Russell was obviously pushing hard to be in range for a double dose of DRS assistance down the next two straights, and you never head into a corner making a speed reduction just in case the driver ahead has, or creates, an unexpected deceleration. You’re not a racing driver if you do.

“Alonso popped his saintly halo on and went to see the Race Stewards, explaining how he intended to approach Turn Six differently for a better exit speed which included decelerating 100 metres earlier, brushing the brake, and even a downshift.

“This is what caught Russell out. We’ve seen Alonso do that before in Nurburgring in 2003 against David Coulthard, and he had exactly the same playbook. Except this time, it caused a huge amount of costly damage for a team who could well be on his wish list.” recommends

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‘No doubt that Alonso intended to wrong-foot an eager Russell’

Hit with the penalty that dropped him to eighth place, Alonso spoke out against the penalty saying he was surprised to be penalised for doing what racing drivers should do.

“A bit surprised by a penalty at the end of the race regarding how we should approach the corners or how we should drive the race cars. At no point do we want to do anything wrong at these speeds,” he said.

“I believe that without gravel on that corner, on any other corner in the world we will never be even investigated.

“In F1, with over 20 years of experience, with epic duels like Imola 2005/2006/Brazil 2023, changing racing lines, sacrificing entry speed to have good exits from corners is part of the art of motorsport.

“We never drive at 100 percent every race lap and every corner, we save fuel, tyres, brakes, so being responsible for not making every lap the same is a bit surprising.”

Weighing in on his defence, Brundle said: “Fernando’s defensive position is, while quoting other epic and clean battles he’s had over the decades, that changing racing line or sacrificing entry speed for a better exit is part of the art of motorsport, and that in fact it was the nature of the gravel trap run-off area which caused Russell’s crash.

“Furthermore, that a driver cannot be responsible for making every lap identical while managing many other variables.

“I personally have no doubt that Alonso intended to wrong-foot an eager Russell heading into a clear overtaking zone, but I doubt he intended such a violent outcome for the Mercedes driver.

“He was penalised by 20 seconds on his elapsed race time, dropping him to eighth.”

‘That situation had ‘red flag’ written all over it’

With Russell’s W15 coming to a rest in the middle of the track on its side, the Briton screamed over the radio for the red flag to be thrown.

Race Control, though, instead went the virtual safety car route in what Brundle believes was a definite red-flag situation.

“But for his seat belts, George Russell would have fallen out of the side window of his Mercedes with a bizarre incident behind Fernando Alonso on the penultimate lap,” he said.

“What started as a fast-closing slide in turbulent air to avoid the unusually-slow Aston Martin of Alonso at the Turn Six apex developed into a run through the gravel trap, clout of the wall, and then the car tripping over its own discarded wheels kept attached to the chassis with the very effective tethers.

“The end result looked a bigger accident than it was in some respects, as the car resting on its side now blocked the gravel-strewn track.

“The leaders were on the last lap and race control covered the incident with a ‘virtual safety car’ meaning all drivers had to slow down to a target time on their dashboard.

“Furthermore, the zone was covered by double-waved yellow flags which means slow down and be prepared to stop. But being just around a blind corner and now with personnel and the Medical Car on site, that situation had ‘red flag’ written all over it.

“Thankfully cars bumped alongside and past, and the chequered flag was shown at the end of the lap.”

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