Following the controversy surrounding Fernando Alonso‘s 10-second penalty at the Jeddah Grand Prix, the FIA has reviewed the penalty pitstop rules and the grid box placements. As a result, the grid boxes will now be extended in width from 2.5m to 2.7m from this weekend, with an experimental central white line added to help guide the drivers in Melbourne. Alonso was penalized for stopping too far to the left of his grid box in Jeddah, resulting in his rear jack touching the car during the penalty stop. Mercedes reviewed the stop, and the FIA subsequently gave Alonso a 10-second penalty.
Aston Martin requested a right of review, and the team demonstrated to the stewards that there was no firm agreement on jacks touching cars being illegal, which was a violation of a regulation that states that a car “may not be worked on until the car has been stationary for the duration of the penalty.” The stewards considered this new evidence and reversed the decision on Alonso’s 10-second penalty, and the Spaniard received his third place back.
The FIA fast-tracked a review of the events, and a panel comprising representatives from several FIA departments concluded that the inconsistency in the wording of the regulations and the conflicting precedents were exposed by this specific incident. The FIA concluded that it will be necessary to document certain “common practices” that are not defined or documented in the regulations to avoid similar incidents in the future.
In addition, the FIA has reviewed the time lag in applying penalties and considered various procedures that lead to delays in reporting incidents to the stewards. Finally, the FIA has issued a sporting directive, which states that the physical touching of the car or driver by hand, tools or equipment (including the front and rear jacks) during any such penalty will all be considered to constitute work, cooling fans during a penalty are permitted, providing they do not touch the car, and multiple penalties can be served in series at a single pit stop.
Drivers have suggested that the white lines added to the grid boxes won’t help much, as they will lose sight of them well before they get to their grid slots. Therefore, it is uncertain whether or not they will become a standard practice.