An outlandish and laughable report in a Spanish newspaper claims that Renault were dealt an unofficial penalty in Shanghai to punish team boss Flavio Briatore for his outspoken stance on the FIA split-diffuser decision.
The Chinese Grand Prix started under the safety car due to heavy rain and stayed out for a full eight laps as the deluge continued.
Fernando Alonso, who used a light fuel load to qualify on the front row, used the opportunity to fuel longer into the race, but the Spaniard was left in limbo at the back of the field when the safety car pulled in on the same lap to get the race started.
The Spanish newspaper 20 Minutos has speculated that the decision to bring the safety car in on the same lap as Alonso’s pit stop was an attempt by race director Charlie Whiting to disrupt the Spaniard’s race.
The newspaper goes on to speculate that the Renault team were being punished for team principal Flavio Briatore’s outspoken stance on the FIA ”double-deck” diffuser decision, which his team lost.
Renault have denied the rumours and Alonso confirms that he and the team were just unlucky [see separate story HERE].
“I think it s one of those days when you take decisions at the wrong moment and everything seems to turn against you,” said the double world champion.
“We thought that the safety car would be out for the next 10 or 15 laps so we came in to get fuel and at the same time the safety car came in so we found ourselves starting the race last.
“We were on the first row on the grid and all of a sudden we were last so this was the end of our race.”
Indeed, it is very unlikely that Whiting singled out Alonso for specific punishment on the track.
A random penalty of this nature without prior notice would be without precedent. It would not be within the rules, as team penalties must go through the correct channels.
A less paranoid explanation for the Spaniard’s difficulties yesterday would be a simple strategic error from the team, who decided to short-fuel the Spanish ace. Renault have fuelled Alonso light before to jump him up the grid in qualifying, even if then his race suffers.