x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Renault to fight race ban

The Renault team are appealing the decision to ban them from next month's European Grand Prix.

Renault's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso drives on three wheels at the Hungaroring racetrack after he lost one during the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday. The French team have been given a one race ban by race stewards for allowing their car to run in an unsafe fashion.
Renault's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso drives on three wheels at the Hungaroring racetrack after he lost one during the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday. The French team have been given a one race ban by race stewards for allowing their car to run in an unsafe fashion.

The Renault team are appealing the decision to ban them from next month's European Grand Prix as a punishment for allowing their driver Fernando Alonso to drive in Hungary with a loose tyre that eventually came off. The French team, who won the constructors' championship in 2005 and 2006 announced their intention to appeal against the race stewards' decision, lodging a deposit of ?6,000 with the governing Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).

The decision has proved controversial as the next round of the championship, the European Grand Prix, is held in the Spanish city of Valencia. By barring Renault from competing they are also blocking the double world champion Alonso from competing in front of his home spectators, a move that is likely to cause upset among ticket holders for the race who will have paid hundreds of euros to not now see their hero in action.

No date for the appeal has been announced but is almost certainly going to be heard before the race in Valencia. This will denying any chance of the race ban being put back while the appeal is heard, as has been the case before. In 1994 when Michael Schumacher was due to be banned from racing in Germany he and the Benetton team appealed, thus having the ban put back to a later date so he could race in front of his home crowd.

But with four weeks between Hungary and Valencia that is unlikely to be an option for the Renault team. The decision came after Alonso, who had started on pole position, had pitted at the end of lap 12 while in the lead. After leaving the pits a few corners later the wheel cover and then the right front wheel came off the Renault, bouncing away to the side of the track. The Spaniard returned to the pits on three wheels and retired a few laps later with a fuel pump problem.

The incident came a week after 18-year-old Briton Henry Surtees died in a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch after being struck by a loose wheel, and Saturday's incident that saw Felipe Massa suffer severe head injuries after he was hit on the head by a spring that fell loose from Rubens Barrichello's Brawn. A statement issued by the FIA said the three stewards had reviewed video and radio recordings and met Renault team manager Steve Nielsen twice to discuss the matter.

They believed Renault had released Alonso's car without one of the retaining devices for the wheel nuts being securely in position. Despite this, the stewards said the team had failed to take any action to prevent the car from leaving the pitlane and did not inform the driver of the problem even though he contacted them by radio believing he had a puncture." The ban applies to Renault, rather than specific drivers, meaning Alonso could drive for another team depending on contractual issues.

gcaygill@thenational.ae