Grand prix

Why F1’s stewards penalised Gasly for 1st-corner Alonso clash

Gasly tapped Alonso into a spin as he ran in-between the Alpine and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez on the run to Turn 1 at a soggy Istanbul Park. Alonso dropped to the rear of the field and could only finish 16th, while the AlphaTauri driver went on to claim sixth place in Sunday’s rain-hit race.

Although the stewards have often taken a more lenient approach to dealing with first-lap accidents, Gasly was handed a five-second time penalty and two penalty points on his licence in a decision which surprised many. 

F1 race director Michael Masi said that an alteration to the ‘let-them-race’ principle introduced at the start of the 2021 season was a factor in the case of the Gasly-Alonso clash. 

“If we go back to the start of the year, if you recall, pre the first event was that following discussions with the drivers and the teams is that we had to sort of ratchet back a little bit the let them race principles in general,” Masi explained. 

“And one of them was first-lap incidents, and that if a driver was wholly to blame for an incident, then it would likely result in a penalty.

“And that one there was the stewards determined that Pierre was wholly to blame for the incident. And as a result, a five-second penalty was imposed.”

Gasly was deemed to be “predominantly at fault” for the collision in the stewards’ initial verdict, before the wording was revised to “wholly” in a ‘corrected’ document released hours later. 

Other Turn 1 incidents this year, such as the one involving Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at Imola, differed because no driver was considered to be predominantly to blame, said Masi. 

“I think if you look at the Max and Lewis one, it’s one of those the wholly or predominantly, under our regulations,” he added. “So we’ve said, and the way that for ease of interpretation, let’s call it, for everyone’s benefit, is that if someone is wholly to blame on lap one, it will result in a penalty.

“If it takes two to tango, then it would be likely on lap one not result in anything, or if there’s more than the two cars involved. But if it’s quite clear, two cars, one has done it, then a penalty would happen.”

Gasly had insisted that he did not have sufficient space to avoid Alonso due to having Perez on his inside. 

“There was contact and I haven’t really seen the footage,” Gasly said. “For me it was tight with Sergio inside me and Fernando was on the outside, so honestly there wasn’t space, but yes there was contact.

“I did the penalty, I don’t know if it was the right thing or not. I need to look at the footage first.

“I saw Fernando was there, I also saw Sergio was there, and I tried to go where I could. We know it is always usually not a good mix when there are that many cars. I don’t have any other similar situation that comes to mind. That is just the way it is.”

But having analysed all of the footage available to them, the stewards ultimately disagreed with Gasly’s claim that he was “sandwiched” and slapped him with a time penalty. 

“That was one of the things why it probably took a little bit longer at the start there to have a closer look at, is that obviously Sergio was on the inside,” Masi said. 

“But once it was quite clear from all of the footage and everything available, that’s why they determined that it was a five second penalty.”

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