x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Renault suspended from Valencia race

The Formula One team have been suspended following the wheel loss suffered by Fernando Alonso in Hungary.

Fernando Alonso arrives back in the pits on three wheels after losing one on the track after a pit-stop change the previous lap.
Fernando Alonso arrives back in the pits on three wheels after losing one on the track after a pit-stop change the previous lap.

Renault have been suspended from next month's European Grand Prix in Valencia following the wheel loss suffered by Fernando Alonso at the Hungarian GP. The suspension applies to the entire team, which means double world champion Alonso will now not race in front of his own supporters at the street circuit in the Spanish city. Renault have been reminded of their right of appeal following an investigation into the incident by the stewards at the Hungaroring, and are almost certain to do so. The incident occurred on lap 13 of the 70-lap race, and immediately after Alonso had made his first pit stop. But on exiting the pit lane it quickly became apparent Alonso had an issue with his right-front wheel.

Within seconds, and as he slipped backwards through the field, Alonso initially lost the wheel cover. But more horrifying, and as he continued to tour around the track, the tyre eventually worked its way loose off the rim. It then bounced across the circuit and into a barrier before coming to rest along the side of the circuit. After the race, won by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, the panel of three stewards studied available film footage and radio recordings. They determined that:

* the competitor knowingly released car number seven (Alonso) from the pit-stop position without one of the retaining devices for the wheel nuts being securely in position, this being an indication that the wheel itself may not have been properly secured. * being aware of this, failed to take any action to prevent the car from leaving the pit lane. * failed to inform the driver of this problem, or to advise him to take appropriate action given the circumstances, even though the driver contacted the team by radio believing he had a puncture. * this resulted in a heavy car part (wheel trim) detaching at turn five, and the wheel itself detaching at turn nine.

The stewards found Renault to be in breach of two specific articles of FIA Sporting Regulations: (i) Competitors must ensure their cars comply with the conditions of eligibility and safety throughout practice and the race. (ii) It is the responsibility of the competitor to release his car after a pit stop only when it is safe to do so.

It is arguably unsurprising the stewards have chosen to clamp down in the wake of the events of the past week. Last Sunday Henry Surtees, 18, was killed by a flying wheel, while Felipe Massa crashed yesterday in qualifying after being hit by stray debris reportedly from Brazilian compatriot Rubens Barrichello's Brawn GP car. Less than half an hour after the stewards announced their findings, Renault filed notification of their intent to appeal, with the hearing almost certain to take place at the FIA's headquarters in Paris during the forthcoming summer break. * PA Sport