The penalty that cost Fernando Alonso his ending in Formula 1 at the Miami Grand Prix was awarded for an offense that accidentally helped him set up the fastest middle sector of the race at the time.
Alonso already had a five-second penalty for hitting Pierre Gasly when he earned investigations by two stewards for allegedly leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
One was dismissed without a penalty, but the wardens determined that Alonso deserved a second five-second penalty for the second offense and that dropped him from ninth to 11th in the final results.
The warden’s verdict contained little information about the alpine driver’s offense, but it was due to skipping the chicane in the 54th of the 57th lap and gaining a lasting advantage.
At the time of the offense, Alonso was running eighth on the road. He was chasing Valtteri Bottas ’Alfa Romeo and trying to get away from Mick Schumacher’s Haas.
Entering the slowest part of the track Alonso was two seconds behind Bottas and half a second ahead of Schumacher.
He made a small mistake on entering the ultra-slow chicane and decided on the second round, but he did it at such a speed that he got a lot of time.
The gap with Bottas fell by about 0.9 s, and Alonso’s advantage over Schumacher increased by 1.0 s. This had the by-product of throwing Alonso out of Schumacher’s DRS range and meant that Haas could no longer benefit from it in his defense against Alonso’s teammate Esteban Ocon.
In the process, Alonso crossed the time line and announced the fastest mid-sector race at the time – although he was later beaten by Mercedes’ George Russell by 0.060s.
Alonso immediately recognized that he might be in trouble, so he raised his hand as he entered the penultimate straight and audibly raised as well.
In doing so, the gap behind Bottas grew to 1.7s, while Schumacher reached 1.2s, although he fought with Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso also worked with his team to inform them: “I missed turn 13, but I set off” – although the available weather information, as mentioned above, shows that he did not return all the time he received.
And after passing through finish eighth on the road, his original five-second penalty dropped him to ninth place – 0.237s ahead of Williams driver Alex Albon.
So while it may seem rude for an illegal gain of a few tenths of a second to face a five-second penalty, especially since Alonso admitted his wrongdoing and tried to atone for it, there is a clear argument that he kept a lasting advantage that meant staying ahead Albona in the initial results that he would not have otherwise.
His second penalty degraded him behind Albon and Aston Martin Lance Stroll.
Taking away ninth place cost Alonso only the second points of the season with a very low conversion rate given the performance he and Alpine showed.
That means he lost the silver line he held on to after his first penalty cost him eighth place, that even “finishing P9 as something”.
“There are still no gifts, no lucky points, but one day it will come one day,” Alonso said before the second penalty was awarded.
He may feel hard about it, but he raised his hands for the initial penalty and was seen apologizing to Gasly after the race.
“It was my mistake, it happens to me sometimes,” he said.
“Mick [Schumacher] spun in Imola and destroyed my race. I destroyed Pierre’s race today so it was my fault.
“I feel sorry for him because I know how he feels and it’s not his fault.
“It’s hard not to finish a race after someone touches you from behind.
“It was bad luck for him and my mistake.”
Gasly subsequently had a serious accident with Land Norris while struggling with damage from a conflict with Alonso.