Penalty drama around legend Alonso’s 100th podium

Fernando Alonso was handed back the 100th podium of his Formula One career, and second in two races for Aston Martin, after a U-turn by officials hours after the finish of Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The 41-year-old double world champion, enjoying a renaissance with his much-improved team, finished third in Jeddah but was demoted to fourth by a 10-second post-race penalty.

The Spaniard was initially handed a five-second penalty for an error on the starting grid and another for failing to serve it properly — the rear jack being in contact with the car before the five seconds were up.

That second penalty was then reversed when his team won a right to review after presenting new evidence to support their case.

“I am happy in the end with the result tonight and our second podium. We showed that we can be the second fastest team and we had good pace throughout the race,” said Alonso in a team statement.

The new evidence included the minutes of the latest Sporting Advisory Committee meeting and video of “seven different instances where cars were touched by the jack while serving a similar penalty… without being penalised.”

Stewards said the evidence called into question a supposed agreement between the teams and FIA that “touching the car in any way, including with a jack, would constitute ‘working’ on the car.”

Alonso, who had celebrated on the podium before the demotion, had criticised the FIA for the delay in imposing the second penalty more than 30 laps after his pitstop.

“I think it’s more an FIA poor show today, more than disappointment for ourselves,” he said then.

“You can’t apply a penalty 35 laps after the pitstop. They had enough time to really inform about the penalty. If I knew that, maybe I open 11 seconds to the car behind. Today we didn’t put on a good show, I think, for our fans.

“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.”

The reversal meant Mercedes driver George Russell dropped back to fourth after appearing in the post-race news conference as third-placed finisher.

“The penalty on Fernando was harsh. They are deserving podium finishers today but I’ll take an extra trophy,” he said earlier.

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