F1 experts slam Alonso’s dangerous tactics: Fair play or foul?

During the final laps of the Australian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso’s aggressive defense strategy sparked significant controversy. Critics argue that he crossed the line by “using his elbows” excessively. It’s a sentiment shared by not only seasoned analysts but also by the FIA, which responded by adding three penalty points to Alonso’s superlicense and imposing a 20-second penalty due to the hazardous incident that marked the race’s climax.

In a panic, George Russell of Mercedes urgently called for red flags over the team radio after his severe crash that left him perpendicular to the racing line, which he implied was triggered by Alonso’s unexpected ‘brake test’. Pedro de la Rosa, a close ally of Alonso and an ambassador for Aston Martin, disputed the FIA’s judgment. He argued that “They cannot tell the drivers how to drive,” maintaining that Alonso was merely protecting his track position in a manner typical of a racer. De la Rosa explained that Alonso aimed to secure an optimal exit from turn 6, a critical point given the impending long back straight, and that Russell should have foreseen Alonso’s strategy.

However, the FIA’s decision was based on evidence that Alonso had engaged in “lifting, braking” and “downshifting” considerably earlier than usual, actions deemed sufficiently perilous to warrant the subsequent penalty.

Robert Doornbos, a former Red Bull driver, suggested to Ziggo Sport that the stewards disapproved of Alonso’s “Oscar-worthy performance,” in which he attributed the controversial maneuver to technical difficulties, a claim later refuted by the FIA after examining the data. “If you give an Oscar-worthy performance, shouting about the battery and the pedal, and he didn’t have those problems, the FIA saw that and said ‘You’re talking nonsense’,” Doornbos remarked, highlighting that this wasn’t Alonso’s first instance of ‘brake testing’ a rival.

Timo Glock, another former driver, shared with Sky Deutschland that Alonso is known for his assertive tactics. “Fernando is always using his elbows. I think he knew exactly what he was doing,” Glock said, indicating that Alonso’s strategy was to surprise Russell, slow him down, then accelerate early to create a gap. However, the move was so unexpected that Russell was caught completely off guard.

Alonso, aged 42, defended his racing approach on social media, asserting that his extensive experience, characterized by memorable battles such as those at Imola in 2005-2006 and Brazil in 2023, demonstrates that varying racing lines and adjusting entry speed for better exits is integral to the sport’s essence.

The incident comes at an awkward time for Alonso, who is reportedly a leading candidate to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next year. Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ team boss, expressed his concerns in Melbourne, noting, “I don’t want to accuse Alonso of anything, because I only watched a few laps back so far,” yet he admitted that Alonso braked at a point on the lap of Russell’s crash where he hadn’t done so before.

GMM

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