Fernando Alonso tweeted “Team” between two green heart icons on Sunday, celebrating his 100th Formula 1 podium after finishing third in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. But for a moment during the post-race celebration, it appeared as though it was his team that had dramatically let him down.
The F1 racer for Aston Martin was slapped with a 10-second penalty shortly after he popped a Champagne bottle and posed for pictures on the podium, alongside respective first- and second-place finishers Sergio Pérez and Max Verstappen, both of Red Bull. It initially appeared to officials that an Alonso team mechanic failed to adhere to a previously-applied five-second service penalty and engaged Alonso’s car with a rear jack too quickly during a tire change. Mercedes driver George Russell was then awarded P3.
At Formula 1, Even That Sprayed Wine Has a SponsorWhy Ferrari Trento pays handsomely to get its sparkling wine sprayed at the winner’s podium
But when Aston Martin appealed the decision, further review of video taken during the pit stop indicated to all parties that evidence was inconclusive. The footage was shot from behind Alonso’s car, and while the mechanic certainly gets the rear jack extremely close to the vehicle, it’s unclear from the vantage point of the camera lens whether or not the jack was touching it. The 10 seconds were then removed from Alonso’s finish time.
“I am happy in the end with the result tonight and our second podium [of the season],” Alonso said when both the confetti and controversy had settled. “We showed that we can be the second fastest team and we had good pace throughout the race. It was my mistake at the start with the position on the grid, but we pushed to make up that time. Coming into this weekend we were not sure exactly where we would be, so this is good news for us going into the next few races.”
Alonso is now just the sixth driver to take 100 Grand Prix podiums in F1 history. The other names on that list are all pretty recognizable: Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Alain Prost and Kimi Raikkonen. But is Alonso the chillest of them all?
Asked for a comment by Sky Sports during the brief moment he was relegated to P4 from P3, he said, “It doesn’t hurt much, to be honest. I was on the podium, I did the pictures, I took the trophy, I celebrated with the Champagne. Now I have apparently three points less.”
However, it’s early in the year. Alonso is third in the overall F1 driver standings, behind the first-place Verstappen and second-ranked Pérez, who have opened up respective 14- and 13-point leads over him. If he remains two slots behind the top of the standings for an extended period, and then such a ruling were to come down before being overturned, he might not emerge from such a sequence of events so nonplussed. After all, as he said recently on an episode of Drive to Survive, he’s “on the dark side.”
The Athletic recently described Alonso as one of the “most demanding and occasionally explosive drivers when things do not go to plan.” During his world championship drought that’s now in year 18, he’s had multiple rifts with fellow teammates that have led to exits from top racing groups. As the outlet wrote, once “[a]fter an engine issue forced him to park up at the side of the track in qualifying, Alonso grabbed a lawn chair belonging to a nearby track marshal and sat sunbathing, watching the rest of the session and posing for the TV cameras.”
So perhaps there was something in the Saudi Arabian air last weekend that led to a pretty reserved response from Alonso, as opposed to a violent outburst of some degree, predicted by at least one Twitter user:
Or maybe he won big on one of the many March Madness upsets.