Formula 1: Fernando Alonso given 20-second time penalty for abruptly slowing before George Russell's crash

Mercedes' British driver George Russell crashes during during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on March 24, 2024. (Photo by Paul Crock / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by PAUL CROCK/AFP via Getty Images)
George Russell was OK after his crash at the end of the Australian Grand Prix. (Photo by Paul Crock / AFP) (PAUL CROCK via Getty Images)

Fernando Alonso was assessed a 20-second penalty following George Russell’s crash at the end of the Australian Grand Prix.

Russell crashed out as he was chasing Alonso for sixth place. The two drivers were on lap 57 of 58 as race winner Carlos Sainz was starting his final lap. As Russell closed in rapidly on Alonso heading into Turn 6, he lost control of his car and slammed into the wall. Russell’s car then ended up on its side in the middle of the track after flipping over its left wheels.

After the race, officials looked at telemetry and found that Alonso had slowed significantly more ahead of Turn 6 on that lap than he had in previous laps. Russell was closing in on Alonso and his Mercedes had fresher tires than Alonso’s Aston Martin.

Stewards determined that Alonso’s move to try to keep Russell at bay entering the corner was dangerous even though Russell and Alonso never made contact. Russell told officials that he was taken aback by how much Alonso had slowed ahead of him. You can see in the video above just how quickly Russell caught Alonso entering the corner.

From F1’s website:

The stewards went on to state that telemetry showed Alonso lifted “slightly more than 100m earlier than he ever had going into that corner during the race,” as well as braking “very slightly at a point that he did not usually brake (although the amount of brake was so slight that it was not the main reason for his car slowing)” before downshifting at a different point to usual.

He then upshifted again and accelerated to the corner before lifting again to make the corner. Alonso explained that his plan was to slow earlier but that he had got it "slightly wrong" and “had to take extra steps to get back up to speed,” but the stewards said that this [maneuver] had “created a considerable and unusual closing speed between the cars.”

The stewards concluded that they did not have “sufficient information to determine whether Alonso’s [maneuver] was intended to cause Russell problems, or whether, as he stated to the stewards, that he simply was trying to get a better exit” but that, “whatever intent,” he had driven in a way that was “potentially dangerous” given the high-speed nature of that point of the track.

The time penalty dropped Alonso from sixth to eighth as it elevated his teammate Lance Stroll to sixth and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda to seventh.

Aston Martin has a right to appeal the decision but it would need to present telemetry data or other evidence that Alonso didn’t drive as differently as stewards believe he did in that part of the track.

Sainz won the race comfortably ahead of his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc after Max Verstappen’s brake problem just a few laps into the race. Verstappen started on pole looking for his 10th consecutive win but was passed by Sainz on lap 2 and soon had to retire the car because of a right rear brake issue.

Ferrari’s great day came as Mercedes had an awful one. Before Russell crashed out on the last lap, Lewis Hamilton had to retire on lap 17 because of an engine problem.

Official race results

1. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

2. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

3. Lando Norris, McLaren

4. Oscar Piastri, McLaren

5. Sergio Perez, Red Bull

6. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin

7. Yuki Tsunoda, RB

8. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin

9. Nico Hulkenberg, Haas

10. Kevin Magnussen, Haas

11. Alex Albon, Williams

12. Daniel Ricciardo, RB

13. Pierre Gasly, Alpine

14. Valtteri Bottas, Kick Sauber

15. Zhou Guanyu, Kick Sauber

16. Esteban Ocon, Alpine

17. George Russell, Mercedes

Not classified: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Max Verstappen (Red Bull)