When does a slight mistake stray over the boundaries into negligence? That was a question which obviously preoccupied the FIA stewards at the recent Hungarian Grand Prix when they concluded that a one race suspension was the appropriate penalty for the Renault team after Fernando Alonso’s car shed its insecurely fastened right front wheel shortly after a routine pit stop.
Having watched the re-run of this incident – and mindful of the death of Henry Surtees the previous weekend at Brands Hatch in addition to Felipe Massa’s qualifying accident the previous day – a chill went down my spine. How easy it would have been for Fernando himself to have become another victim, but thankfully the errant wheel bounced harmlessly to a halt at the track side.
I have to say I can quite see why the FIA stewards reached the decision they did on the day. Yet at the same time I think the governing body’s Court of Appeal was correct in replacing the one race suspension with a reprimand and a $50,000 fine. In the heat of battle it might have seemed appropriate to penalise Renault, but with the benefit of hindsight, it was equitable to amend the punishment.