Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has drawn comparisons between Fernando Alonso’s penalty in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and the handling of the 2021 title showdown in Abu Dhabi.
The entire Mercedes team were left despaired at the end of 2021 by the manufacturing of a final lap shootout between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen that witnessed the Brit controversially miss out on a record-breaking eighth Formula 1 Drivers’ title.
Consequently, an investigation was launched and then FIA race director Michael Masi was removed from his position, with the FIA implementing a new structure for the following year that saw two race directors share duties.
Complaints over the inconsistency of decisions reigned, however, prompting Neils Wittich to subsequently be placed as the sole individual in charge at every F1 grand prix for 2023.
But the introduction of a grid box rule to strictly monitor drivers’ placement on the starting grid has created further confusion at the start of the latest season, with Fernando Alonso being stripped of his third-place finish in Saudi Arabia before then being reinstated.
Although Alonso appeared to serve his five-second time penalty correctly for being out of position at the start and attended the podium ceremony, the Aston Martin driver was handed a further 10s penalty when the stewards adjudged the rear jackman had touched the car at the Spaniard’s stop.
After Aston Martin successfully overturned the second penalty handed to Alonso to retain third, Wolff used Mercedes’ Abu Dhabi heartbreak as supporting evidence that the sport’s governing body needs to prioritise that the right decisions are made rather than rushed ones.
“First of all, the penalty was super harsh because from the pure driving performance Fernando and Aston Martin deserved to be on the podium,” Wolff said in an interview with Channel 4.
“We have to look at those regulations and see is there is anything we can tweak because it didn’t affect his race.
“I’d rather have the FIA come to the right decisions than be too quick and obviously fall into something that’s wrong.
“We’ve been victims of that in 2021 where everything was down to the entertainment for a quick decision and it robbed the greatest driver of the championships.
“So in that respect, I think I’d rather not go to the podium and have the correct result afterwards.”
Along with Wolff, Mercedes driver George Russell criticised the contentious situation that unfolded in the aftermath of the Jeddah race.
The British driver was rewarded with the third-place trophy before having to hand it back once Alonso was reinstalled into third the same night.
Russell has since asked for “common sense” to be applied to the new regulation regarding drivers’ correctly lining up in their grid box, with the Red Bull pairing of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen also suggesting that the rule needs to be looked at.
All three participants appearing in the FIA post-race press conference after the Saudi Arabian GP agreed that visibility in the current formula of cars makes it hard to line up within the painted guidelines.
Alonso’s penalty was the second in two races after his former Alpine team-mate, Esteban Ocon, was penalised in Bahrain for a similar infraction.