The FIA explained that it re-looked Fernando Alonso’s pit stop as he gets back third place in F1 Saudi Arabian GP after review.

It all started after the opening few laps in F1 Saudi Arabian GP when Aston Martin’s Alonso was first put under investigation for being out of position on the grid. He was subsequently penalised by 5s for being too left which was conveyed moments he lost the lost to Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.

He served it under the safety car when he pitted. Videos showcased the rear jackman gearing up to lift the car. The mechanic did touch the car but didn’t start to lift until the five seconds had elapsed. But the confusion arose with this touch and no touch policy.

Initially, the FIA stewards cleared Aston Martin but they were pinged by the Remote Operations Centre, who run remote operations at Geneva to aide the team in Saudi Arabia, about a possibility that the team did not serve the penalty right.

Upon re-checking, they found the rear jackman getting ready to lift the car wherein he touched the Alonso’s car. That was enough for the FIA stewards to penalise him with 10s which was only conveyed after the podium ceremony was completed.

Alonso got off with the trophy but before the FIA press conference, he handed it to Mercedes’ Russell who reckoned it was harsh and that Aston Martin deserved the trophy. While the Spaniard was chill about it, the team did go in for right to review.

The FIA stewards once again looked at the matter wherein Article 54.4 (c) was looked upon from the Sporting Regulations. It mentioned about ‘working’ on the car and had no mention of ‘touch’. It went: “Whilst a car is stationary in the pit lane as a result of incurring a penalty in accordance with Articles 54.3a) or 54.3b) above, it may not be worked on until the car has been stationary for the duration of the penalty.”

The stewards were shown seven instances where there was no penalty applied for similar ‘touch’ by the jackman. Since it was seemingly agreed that touch/no touch wouldn’t amount to working on the car and the rule not being very specific on the face of it, there was no choice but to reverse the penalty decision and hand back third to Alonso.

Here’s explanation of why Alonso was penalised:

Car 14 had come into the pits during the safety car period to serve the 5 second penalty that was imposed on Car 14 for being out of position at the starting grid. As is customary, race control aided by the Remote Operations Centre (ROC) in Geneva examined whether Car 14 served its penalty in accordance with the regulations. The Stewards were informed that both race control and ROC had determined that the penalty had been properly served.

The stewards did not examine the matter further thereafter. Subsequently, at the last lap of the race, the Stewards received a report from race control that they considered that the penalty was not properly served by CAR 14 and they asked the Stewards to investigate the matter. The matter was reported to race control by ROC.

The Stewards were shown video evidence of how Car 14 served the penalty by the Race Director and the Sporting Director. They stated that what was agreed at the SAC meetings with the teams was that no part of the car could be touched while a penalty was being served as this would constitute working on the car. In this case, it was clear, that the car was touched by the rear jack. Based on the representation made to the Stewards that there was an agreed position that touching the car would amount to “working” on the car, the Stewards decided to impose a penalty.

Article 54.4(e) gives the Stewards the discretion to disqualify a car for failure to comply with Article 54.4(c). However, given that no work was done while the car was touched, we considered that disqualification would be too harsh an outcome. In the circumstances, the Stewards imposed a 10s penalty on Car 14.

Here’s the FIA explaining the reversal:

The Stewards received a letter dated 19th March 2023 from Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team with a Petition for Review pursuant to Article 14.1.1 of the International Sporting Code (ISC) of this Stewards panel’s decision to impose a 10-second penalty to Car 14 for failing to serve the penalty properly.

In support of the Petition for Review, the Stewards were shown minutes of the latest SAC meeting and video evidence of 7 different instances where cars were touched by the jack while serving a similar penalty to the one imposed on Car 14 without being penalized. The clear submission by the Team was that the alleged representation of an agreement between the FIA and the teams that touching the car in any way, including with a jack, would constitute “working” on the car for the purposes of Article 54.4 (c) of the Sporting Regulations, was incorrect and therefore the basis of the Steward’s decision was wrong.

In the light of the Petition, the Stewards had to decide if there was a “significant and relevant new element [that was] discovered which was unavailable to the parties seeking the review at the time of the decision concerned”. If there was such an element(s) then the Stewards would need to consider whether the decision needed to be modified in any way.

Having reviewed the video evidence presented and having heard from the Team representative of Aston Martin and the relevant members from the FIA, the Stewards determined that there did exist significant and relevant new evidence as required under Article 14.1.1 to trigger a review of the decision, in particular the video evidence and the verbal evidence from the Team and from the FIA. It was clear to us that the substratum of the original decision, namely the representation of there being an agreement, was called into question by the new evidence.

We therefore proceeded to hear the substance of the request for review. 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 needed to be reversed and we did so accordingly.

Post the podium when Alonso had the third place taken away, the Spaniard wasn’t too sad about it. “It doesn’t hurt much, to be honest. I was on the podium, I did the pictures, I took the trophy, I celebrated with the champagne,” he said at that time. “Now I have apparently three points less; I don’t have 15, I have 12.

“No one told me this five seconds [was needed at the end of the race]. They told me just five seconds in the first stint, and I opened seven or eight. Then in the second there was no information at all, not even investigated.

“I know the team is trying to review the thing with the stewards right now, because we didn’t understand fully the second penalty. I care, but I don’t care that much! I celebrated. Now I have three points less [but] let’s try to recover [them] in Australia.”

With Alonso getting third place back, he remains third in the drivers’ standings but with three points more for him and also Aston Martin who remain second in the constructors’ standings, although they are tied on 38 points with Mercedes but sit second due to podium finishes. And more importantly, the Spaniard did secure his 100th career podium.

Here’s video of the pit stop:

Here’s how F1 Saudi Arabian GP panned out