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Stoddie Straight: Totally unacceptable stewarding; Reliability only Red Bull weakness

RacingNews365's expert columnist, former Formula 1 team principal Paul Stoddart, tackles the controversial stewarding decisions from the Saudi Arabian GP amid a stellar race for Red Bull and Sergio Perez.

In his post-race column for RacingNews365.com , former Formula 1 team principal Paul Stoddart doesn't hold back in his assessment of the handling of Fernando Alonso's time penalty, and believes more should be done to prevent the Formula 1 being subjected to "joke" decisions.

FIA needs to investigate itself after Alonso penalty debacle

The FIA [Stewards] wants to take a real, seriously hard look at itself. There are 100 million people watching that thing worldwide, and not one of them gives a s**t about the FIA’s stupid rules applied in the extreme. First of all, let's go back to the start. Where that Aston Martin was, a couple of inches to the left of the white line? Come on, guys. Is there a racing advantage to be had by doing that? No. Did Fernando get anything out of that? No. Then onto when the penalty was served, the rules haven't changed since the days I was there, the rules state you can't work on the car, it doesn't mean you can't be there! You're allowed to be there. I mean, what are we doing? Are we racing, or are we having a laugh here? It's absolutely outrageous. If the FIA is having a bad day, they’re having a really bad day. I don't think I have ever, ever, in 30 years seen a Safety Car put out when it wasn't necessary like that one. What a joke. Stroll literally gifted it to the marshals. It could have been handled under double yellows; it could have been handled under virtual safety. What on earth would they need to do that for? It influences the outcome of the race. In FIA Race Control, they don't just rely on the onboards, they have footage that none of us have ever seen, and I do not believe that they did not know where that car was. I just simply don't believe it. I've been behind the scenes, I've sat in that studio and I've seen what visibility they have. I'm sorry, I don’t accept it. If it wasn't visible, what was the harm in waiting 30 seconds longer until they could actually see the car when the cameras had picked it up?

Towards the end of the race, when it was discussed that there might be a second penalty, it didn't come up on the screen as ‘under investigation’, they reacted to the TV commentary that said, ‘I thought that jack was touching the back of that car’. I don't want to see this sport that I love to go down this stupid road again of having the FIA politics. We had all that 10 and 20 years ago, we've seen championships taken away, we've seen personal punishments dished out. I thought when [Max] Mosley left all of that was all over. [Jean] Todt could be a little bit political, but he was a bit better. I really hoped, I really hoped that we had put all of this behind us, and now, clearly, we haven't. If the FIA [Stewards] wants to do something sensible, it needs to investigate itself for bringing the sport into disrepute. A lot of other people feel the same way. What really, really hurts is the fact that they interfered again with a podium. Liberty Media, Stefano Domenicali, people need to be talking to the FIA [Stewards] and asking, ‘what are you doing?’ You cannot tell me that they didn't know that they were going to do this before that podium, of course they bloody did. They hung on like a bunch of cowards until all the fuss was over, and then did the dirty work. It's totally unacceptable. It's bringing the sport into disrepute. Someone needs to get the sack over this.

Only reliability will stop Red Bull after superb Perez display

Checo’s race was nothing short of brilliant, full credit Red Bull for not swapping the positions. I did listen to Christian Horner being interviewed after the race and I think he thought that Max was going to be sitting right behind Checo and would have to make a tough decision, but it didn't go that way. Checo pulled the time out when he needed to pull it out, drove the perfect race, and it's really sad that we're talking about Alonso and the FIA [Stewards], and not Checo and Max, who both did a brilliant job. Max going from 15th to second and got the fastest lap on the last lap, which he was clearly intending to do so! A brilliant race from Red Bull and, as far as I'm concerned, they’re World Champions already. Reliability is the only thing that's going to stop them from clean sweeping both championships. With the driveshaft issue, with Red Bull having had the driveshafts snap on Saturday, then of course Max is going to get on the radio and say ‘hey, I've got a vibration’. The team rightly went through everything, but I personally feel that Max probably could have moved up to the back of Sergio if he really felt that the car was 100%. I think he felt that he was happy to just keep that five second gap, because to push that five seconds down might have been the difference between finishing and not finishing. I think Red Bull ran a fairly sensible race.

The state of play heading towards Melbourne

Red Bull are in a league of their own, then after that you've got Aston Martin, Mercedes - who did have a good weekend - and Ferrari all kind of hovering around, depending on who's having a good race or who's got something working. Alpine are hanging on to the top half of the grid. Then, sadly, at the lower half of the grid, you've got McLaren going around the back, you've got Williams and AlphaTauri. Basically, along with Haas and Alfa Romeo, you've got five teams fighting from the second half of the grid. Melbourne is a different ballgame altogether, and I'll be very interested to see how all the teams perform in Melbourne and where we are when we leave. It's a good benchmark after three races to get a feel for the running order. Melbourne is still the best race of the year in my mind, and I'll be looking forward to Fernando getting his 101st podium!

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