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Fernando Alonso

Alonso is no stranger to the dark arts - but he just got Russell move wrong

Fernando Alonso's erratic driving in the Australian Grand Prix was a major talking point as George Russell crashed. Aston Martin staunchly defended Alonso, who is no stranger to pushing the boundaries.

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To news overview © XPBimages

On Tuesday, two days after the Australian Grand Prix, Aston Martin boss Mike Krack penned an open letter to the fans about the time penalty Fernando Alonso incurred in Australia.

The stewards felt his penultimate lap move defending from George Russell's Mercedes was "extraordinary" as he lifted off the throttle for Turn 6 100 metres earlier than on any previous lap, accelerated, and then braked again before making the corner.

Alonso's rationale was that he was attempting to be slower into the corner to take greater speed out to try and defend from a DRS-armed Russell on the long blast to Turns 9 and 10 and again down to Turn 12.

Russell, not expecting the move, was caught out by the dirty air, leading to his panicked radio messages demanding a red flag after his Mercedes came to rest lodged on its side.

The move was deemed "potentially dangerous" by the stewards, who handed him a drive-through penalty, converted into a 20-second time penalty that dropped Alonso to eighth in the results. He also picked up three points on his super licence.

In that letter, Krack wrote that Alonso would "never put anyone in harm's way" and that the penalty was a "bitter pill to swallow" but that "without new evidence" a right of review request would not be possible.

Aston Martin's claim

Krack is correct.

Racing drivers are fully aware of the risks of racing 200mph projectiles within a confined space and would never do something to a rival that they would not like done to themselves.

Alonso openly conceded that he drove differently on lap 57 at Turn 6 in a bid to gain an advantage and he just got it slightly wrong, a minuscule misjudgement that unfortunately had big consequences for Russell.

Alonso is a purveyor of the dark arts and is known for an occasional dabble into the grey zone, but this time he found himself slightly on the wrong side of the line.

He has never committed an act as egregious as Ayrton Senna taking Alain Prost out at Turn 1 in the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix in revenge to claim the championship, but the two-time world champion is not afraid to try something, anything, to get the best result he can for his team.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Previous Alonso dark arts

In the 2023 Abu Dhabi finale, Alonso brake-tested Lewis Hamilton approaching Turn 5 and the DRS detection line in a bid to keep the seven-time F1 champion behind.

The Mercedes eventually found its way past as Hamilton stamped on the brakes, fully aware of what his old team-mate was planning. When questioned after by the media, as quick as a flash, Alonso recalled the 2013 Canadian Grand Prix where the two had played DRS 'chicken' and Hamilton had slammed the brakes on to try and force by Alonso's Ferrari.

Before that, in qualifying for the 2022 Azerbaijan GP, a crash for Aston Martin's Lance Stroll brought the red flags out in Q1 with a couple of minutes remaining in the segment.

There was just enough time left for a handful of drivers to complete a flying lap, and with Alonso's Alpine nicely tucked into a Q2 berth - he made sure, with as much deniability as possible, that he got it.

Going out early, Alonso significantly backed up Q1-threatened drivers like Alex Albon to prevent them from getting around to start a lap, before going off, seemingly without reason, at Turn 15 to bring out yellow flags. Session over.

Albon called Alonso out over the radio.

"He needs to get penalised, this guy, he has to. This is ridiculous. He was doing it the whole lap. He was driving slowly on purpose and then it was so obvious, how he went off the track. It was ridiculous."

Going back further, there is the famous Hungary qualifying incident between Alonso and Hamilton in 2007 where Hamilton reneged on an agreement to let Alonso pass during the 'fuel burn' laps of Q3.

Incensed, the reigning champion slowed down so that he pitted ahead of Hamilton and promptly blocked the rookie for just enough time to teach him a lesson and prevent him from getting pole.

Alonso, who claimed the countdown from the team was slightly off in its timing and he felt sorry for Hamilton not getting a final lap, was stripped of the pole he had earned as the tension in McLaren erupted, and would lead to the Spygate scandal being brought back into the public domain.

			© xpb.cc
	© xpb.cc

Where does it leave Alonso?

Even as he approaches his 43rd birthday, Alonso remains as competitive as ever, even though it is now over a decade since his last F1 win at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix.

Later this season in Qatar, he is scheduled to hit the 400 grand prix started mark, and you do not survive for that long in F1 or motorsport without picking up a few tricks of the trade along the way to store in the memory bank and to use at a later date.

To be clear, Alonso's move against Russell was wrong and he simply made a mistake, tried to be too clever and was rightly punished for it.

But for trying to find the tiniest crumb of any advantage he can, through any of the examples given and others, he should be applauded, but just on this occasion, he went too far.

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