Vergne handed 10 place grid drop after unsafe release in FP2

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Jean-Eric Vergne has been given a 10 place grid penalty for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix after his wheel broke free from his car at the end of the second practice session in Barcelona today.

The Toro Rosso driver was released from the pits with five minutes remaining, but the team failed to properly attach the left rear tire onto the STR9 car. As he came through the opening complex of corners, it came free and bounced through the gravel. Thankfully, it did not make any contact with another car and was eventually recovered by a marshal.

The FIA has taken a zero tolerance approach to loose wheels ever since the 2013 German Grand Prix, where a cameraman was struck by an errant wheel in the pit lane during the race. Thankfully, he escaped unharmed, but a precedent has now been set.

Daniel Ricciardo was the last driver to be handed a penalty, receiving a 10 place grid drop for the Bahrain Grand Prix after the team released him without properly attaching the tire on his car.

Toro Rosso has also been fined €30,000 by the FIA for the unsafe release.

Although it may seem like a harsh penalty for a minor error, bouncing wheels can be very dangerous. F2 racer Henry Surtees died back in 2009 after a wheel came loose from another car and struck his head.

With safety being so important, this penalty will hopefully ensure that a little more care is taken by the teams during pit stops.

Alonso would be ‘very happy’ to finish F1 career with McLaren

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Fernando Alonso says he would be “very happy” to see out his Formula 1 career with McLaren after signing a new multi-year contract with the British team, announced on Thursday.

Alonso, 36, ended speculation about his future by agreeing a new deal with McLaren, hopeful of returning to the front of the field next year when the team swaps Honda power for Renault engines.

Alonso admitted to considering options outside of F1 before agreeing to stay at McLaren, and was thought to only be chasing a one-year extension in order to be in a position to snap up a more attractive seat in the volatile 2019 market.

However, Alonso confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the deal with McLaren stretched beyond the end of next year, adding he would be content to see out his time in the sport with the team.

“I never talk about contracts, but one thing I can say is it is a long-term partnership,” Alonso said.

“I am very happy to finish my career at McLaren. So I don’t think it is going to be only one year.”

Alonso also revealed he had options with teams high up the field in F1 for 2018 just a couple of months ago, but was always leaning to staying at McLaren despite not scoring a podium with the team in almost three years.

“There were some other options in F1. In the summer there were still some options at the top teams, but my desire was to stay with McLaren,” Alonso said.

“But at that time they were in conversation with different engine suppliers, so I had to give them time to sort out their situation.

“Then McLaren opted for a Renault engine which delayed my decision, because I had to understand what Renault’s plans were for next years.

“But when I had everything on the table, everything was pretty clear.”