It all looked innocent enough at first: a loose wheel cover on Fernando Alonso's Renault after the past World Champion's first pit stop at today's Hungarian Grand Prix. However, it did not end with the loose wheel cover, as the Spaniard's right ...
It all looked innocent enough at first: a loose wheel cover on Fernando Alonso's Renault after the past World Champion's first pit stop at today's Hungarian Grand Prix. However, it did not end with the loose wheel cover, as the Spaniard's right front wheel came off and flew into the barriers before he had completed a lap.
"When I left the pits there was a lot of vibration and it felt like I had a puncture, but then a few corners later the wheel flew off my car," Alonso recalled.
Given that an errant wheel killed young Formula Two driver Henry Surtees only a week earlier, this was bound to attract the attention of the FIA.
And, indeed, the race stewards reviewed the incident, and felt that the team had acted in irresponsible fashion, releasing Alonso from the pits and not warning him about the problem. To quote the stewards' decision:
Having carefully reviewed the available film recordings and radio recordings and having met the Team Manager twice to discuss the matter the Stewards believe
<ol> <li>that the Competitor knowingly released car no. 7 from the pit stop position without one of the retaining devices for the wheel-nuts being securely in position, this being an indication that the wheel itself may not have been properly secured,</li>
<li>being aware of this failed to take any action to prevent the car from leaving the pit-lane</li>
<li>failed to inform the driver of this problem or to advise him to take appropriate action given the circumstances, even though the driver contacted the team by radio believing he had a puncture,</li>
<li>this resulted in a heavy car part detaching at Turn 5 and the wheel itself detaching at Turn 9</li>
Breach of Article 23.1.i and Article 3.2 of the 2009 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.
The Competitor ING Renault F1 Team is suspended from the next event in the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship.
Renault's team manager Steven Nielsen received the stewards' decision at 6:22 PM local time, and informed the stewards of the team's intent to appeal just 28 minutes later, at 6:50 PM, and lodged its required deposit of €6000 for the appeal.
The team did not indicate on what grounds it would be appeal. However, it appears that there can be little argument about the facts of the case; the only question is whether the punishment is appropriate for the crime.