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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Giles Richards

FIA to review rules after confusion over Fernando Alonso’s finish in Saudi Arabia

Fernando Alonso celebrates on the podium in Jeddah
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso celebrates his third place on the podium at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah. Photograph: EPA

Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, is to review its regulations after controversy and confusion clouded Fernando Alonso’s finish in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The race at Jeddah was won by Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez ahead of his teammate Max Verstappen but Alonso delivered another superb drive to seal third for Aston Martin. However the place was not confirmed until more than five hours after the finish and only then after a series of U-turns from the FIA.

Alonso had initially been given a five-second penalty for starting from an incorrect position in his grid box. He took the penalty during a pit stop which was judged by officials to have been served as required, stationary for five seconds with no pit crew working on the car.

However on the final lap the stewards were asked to check video evidence of the stop and, having done so, deemed that the rear jack had touched the car before the five seconds elapsed. They awarded a 10-second penalty long after Alonso had already celebrated on the podium, dropping him from third to fourth.

Aston Martin then presented evidence to the FIA including arguing that touching the car did not constitute “working” on it as defined in the rules. At gone midnight local time, the stewards acknowledged there was a lack of clarity in the regulations and overturned Alonso’s penalty, returning him to third.

The FIA admitted the events had exposed an ambiguity in the rules that had to be addressed. “The decision of the stewards to hear and grant the right of review by the competitor was the result of new evidence regarding the definition of ‘working on the car’, for which there were conflicting precedents, and this has been exposed by this specific circumstance,” it said in a statement.

The rules and questions raised over why Alonso’s stop was initially adjudged as correct and then not re-examined until the final lap will be now addressed at the next F1 sporting advisory committee meeting which takes place on Thursday. A clarification will then be issued before the Australian Grand Prix which is held in Melbourne in two weeks.

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