The FIA has reversed its decision after right to review from Alpine as Fernando Alonso gets back his points finish from F1 US GP.

Post the grand prix in USA, Haas registered a protest against Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Alpine’s Alonso for lack of black and orange flag from the FIA side due to damage on their cars. It was related to Kevin Magnussen being shown the same multiple times.

The team wanted clarification on the matter. While the protest against Red Bull was nullified, the FIA penalised Alonso which dropped him outside of points. Alpine readily filed a protest against the timing of the original protest made by Haas.

They went behind the timing factor as they felt Haas protested nearly 30 minutes after the deadline had passed. Their initial admissibility was rejected during a hearing in F1 Mexico GP weekend, where Alpine then pressed the ‘right to review’ option.

In that hearing the decision from the FIA was reversed on the time factor as Alonso got back seventh place with Sebastian Vettel in eighth, Kevin Magnussen ninth and Zhou Guanyu rounding of the Top 10, where Esteban Ocon dropped outside again.

Procedure –

1. After the publication of the Provisional Classification of the 2022 US Grand Prix, Haas lodged a Protest against Car number 14 entered by BWT Alpine F1 Team (the “Original Protest”).

2. The Provisional Classification was published at 16:09 hrs Sunday October 23, 2022.

3. The Original Protest was lodged at 17:03 hrs that day

4. The Stewards took the unanimous decision to admit the Original Protest, notwithstanding it being lodged 24 minutes outside of the usual 30-minute deadline, after consideration of the circumstances which they determined justified its admissibility, in accordance with Article 13.3.5 of the FIA International Sporting Code.

5. The Original Protest was founded in a Decision of the Stewards handed down at 20:53 hrs Sunday October 23, 2022, and a Drive Through Penalty was imposed on Car 14 (Document 61).

6. The Final Classification was issued at 21:00 hrs.

7. A request for a review of the Decision to admit the Original Protest was lodged by BWT Alpine F1 Team at 2000 hrs October 27, 2022.

8. A hearing was convened to firstly determine if a significant and relevant new element had been discovered by the party requesting the review (Alpine) at 2045 hrs October 27, 2022. The following were in attendance via video (summoned in Doc 69 & 70):

a. For BWT Alpine F1 Team (“Alpine”), Otmar Szafnauer , Pat Fry and Allan Permane

b. For Haas F1 Team (“Haas”), Gunther Steiner, Peter Crolla and Ayao Komatsu

c. For the FIA, Niels Wittich and Nikolas Tombazis

9. For Alpine, Mr Permane submitted that it was not until 20:53 hrs on the day of the race that the team became aware that the Original Protest was lodged 24 minutes after the usual 30 minute deadline, and that therefore this was a significant and relevant new element not available to it at the time the Stewards took the decision to admit the Original Protest.

10. Mr Permane also submitted that it was not until the Protest Hearing conducted earlier this day, that Alpine became aware that an FIA official in Race Control had advised Haas that it had 1 hour to lodge its protest when the ISC prescribed 30 minutes and that this also represented a significant and relevant new element.

Decision on Existence of Significant and Relevant New Element –

11. The Stewards, having heard the evidence of all parties, determine that there does exist a significant and relevant new element that was not available to Alpine at the time of the decision to admit the Original Protest.

12. Accordingly the Stewards determine to proceed with a Review of admissibility of the Original Protest.

Procedure –

13. All parties agreed that following the above determinations, the Review should proceed immediately without the need for further summonses as all parties were already present and prepared to participate.

14. For Alpine, Mr Permane submitted the following

a. There is no “leeway” available to the stewards to extend the 30 minutes deadline in Article 13.3.5 of the ISC, unless it is “impossible” for a party to lodge the protest within the deadline period

b. The word “impossible” sets a very “high bar” – the Oxford Dictionary defines it as being something that cannot happen or be achieved and that in this case, there was nothing preventing Haas from lodging the protest within the 30-minute deadline.

c. That an FIA official cannot give a competitor permission to contravene the ISC

d. Haas admitted that it could have lodged a handwritten protest within the 30-minute deadline

15. For Haas, Mr Crolla submitted the following

a. That Haas would have submitted a handwritten protest to the Stewards within the 30 minutes had it not been told by the FIA official in Race Control, that it had an hour to do so

b. That the stewards could use their discretion on these matters as they had “supreme authority” over the application of the rules and had the power under the ISC to “settle any matter”.

16. The FIA representatives made no submissions

Conclusion –

17. The Stewards accept the argument of Alpine that the word “impossible” indeed sets a very high bar and that in hindsight, that very high bar was not met in this case.

18. Of significant importance is the fact, unknown to the Stewards previously, that Haas could have lodged a handwritten protest within the 30-minute deadline. By definition, this fact alone means that it was not “impossible” to lodge the protest within 30 minutes and therefore the Original Protest should not have been admitted.

19. Accordingly the Stewards determine that the Original Protest was not admissible and therefore the Decision in Document 61 is rendered null and void. No penalty is to be applied to Car 14 and the Final Classification should be amended and reissued.

Observations –

20. The Stewards are, notwithstanding the above determinations, concerned that Car 14 was permitted to remain on track with a mirror assembly hanging loose which finally fell off, and strongly recommends procedures be put in place to monitor such matters and where necessary, require the problem to be rectified as has been done multiple times in the past, through either a radio call to the team or display of the black and orange flag, requiring the car to return to the pits for the problem to be repaired. Teams also have a responsibility under the FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations Article 3.2. We also understand the FIA President has initiated a review into the use of the black and orange flag.

Alpine naturally welcomed the decision with a statement: “BWT Alpine F1 Team thanks the FIA stewards for convening and reaching a positive conclusion on the matter involving Car #14 from last weekend’s United States Grand Prix. The team welcomes the decision made by the aforementioned stewards, whereby Car #14 reinstates its seventh place finish and six points from the race. We look forward to continuing our collaborative work alongside the FIA to ensure the racing spectacle is maintained to the highest quality. The team now looks forward to competing this weekend at the Mexico City Grand Prix.”

Prior to the hearing and decision, Alonso pressed on the need to reverse the penalty terming it as a big day for F1. “Obviously, I was very disappointed,” he said. “It was a rollercoaster of emotions for me on Sunday: started at the back, then we were like P6, we had the accident; last again; and then finishing P7, and then in the evening, again out of the point.

“So it was up and down all day long. And now, let’s wait and see. I think I’m very optimistic that we will keep seventh place. The FIA has been very transparent to us this year. I think the new leadership, also with Mohammed I think, doing things a little bit differently than in the past. So I fully trust what they will decide.

“I think there are a couple of things that are very clear, that they were made wrong from their side. So, as I said, I’m very confident that I will be P7 again in Austin. If I’m not P7 at the end, I’m sure they will explain why and we will see it clearly. So, you know, I am very, very relaxed about that,” summed up Alonso.

When pressed further, Alonso brought out the time factor which Alpine were after. “First of all, you cannot appeal any decision of time penalty,” he clarified. “So that’s how the rules are written, which is nice, because whatever decision you take, you cannot appeal. I would love to have that one when driving. But yeah, we protest basically because it was out of time. And there were a couple of things that… the FIA was not showing me the black and orange flag. So, they felt that the car was safe to keep driving. The car went to parc fermé, passed all the scrutineering.

“Green light on parc fermé, and then the protests arrive too late. So, between all, I think there is no doubt that this was not the right decision to take. And if this is the right decision to take, it will open a huge problem for the future in Formula 1. I think fifty, sixty, seventy per cent of the cars will have to retire the car when they have an aerodynamic device that is not properly fixed because it’s going to be unsafe, the car. It will open also… if 20 minutes too late is okay to protest, is one month too late?

“Is one hour too late? Is 10 years too late? When is too late? So that, I think, we cannot afford. So, as I said, this is a very important day for our sport. I don’t care about seventh, I’m not fighting for the World Championship, but if this goes ahead, I think we will open a very… we don’t want to open that box,” summed up Alonso

Here’s Fernando Alonso on Thursday hearing

Here’s Lance Stroll, Fernando Alonso on collision

Here’s Alpine seeking to protest