19 March 2023

Fernando Alonso handed back third place at Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

19 March 2023

Fernando Alonso has been handed back his third place at Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

More than three hours after the 41-year-old was controversially stripped of his 100th career podium, following a retrospective 10-second penalty, the FIA announced it had reversed its decision.

Mercedes driver George Russell, who earlier took advantage of Alonso’s punishment, was demoted to fourth.

Alonso’s Aston Martin mechanics were adjudged to have illegally touched the Spaniard’s car with the jack as he served a five-second sanction for a start infringement.

But Aston Martin were able to show the stewards video evidence of seven previous incidents where cars had been touched by the jack as drivers served similar penalties, forcing the FIA into a U-turn at 1am local time.

A statement from the governing body read: “Having reviewed the new evidence, we concluded that there was no clear agreement, as was suggested to the stewards previously, that could be relied upon to determine that parties had agreed that a jack touching a car would amount to working on the car, without more.

“In the circumstances, we considered that our original decision to impose a penalty on Car 14 (Alonso) needed to be reversed and we did so accordingly.”

Earlier, Alonso criticised the FIA for the length of time it took to deliver the punishment for a crime which occurred on lap 18 of 50.

“Today is not good for the fans,” he said, having celebrated his triumph on the rostrum.

“When you have almost 35 laps to apply a penalty and you wait until after the podium, there is something really wrong in the system.

“I feel sorry for the fans. But I really enjoyed the podium, I threw the trophy, I have the pictures, I celebrated with the champagne and now to have 15 points or 12 doesn’t change much for me, but it is a little bit sad for the FIA. Common sense needs to come back.”

Alonso led the opening handful of laps in Jeddah after he beat pole-sitter Sergio Perez to the first corner.

However, before being overtaken by Perez, Alonso was dealt a five-second penalty after he started too far on the left of his grid box.

The Spaniard added: “It was my mistake and I need to pay more attention to that. But they told me you have a five-second penalty, so I pushed harder and I opened up a seven-second gap.

“But in the second stint, there was no investigation, no information, no nothing. If someone told me ‘you have a 10-second penalty’ I would have opened up 11 seconds.

“It is not fair for George. The Mercedes sponsors would have loved to have been on the podium, but for us it is good. We have our Aramco branding, we have the picture.

“If George was really third in the race, he should have enjoyed the podium and not me, so I feel sorry for George, Mercedes’ sponsors and for George’s fans.”

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