Fernando Alonso accuses FIA race stewards of ‘incompetence’ after penalty in Miami GP

Fernando Alonso FIA incompetence
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MONTMELO, Spain — Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso slammed the FIA on Friday at his home grand prix, accusing race stewards of “incompetence” and saying one of the directors lacks the professionalism for the role.

The Spaniard was infuriated two weeks ago at the Miami Grand Prix after he was penalized late in the race while running in contention to score points. Alonso claimed Friday at the Spanish Grand Prix that his Alpine team submitted evidence to have his penalty overturned, but the stewards had already made their decision and were done working for the day.

“We believe that it was very unfair and it was just incompetence from the stewards – they were not very professional,” Alonso said. “We arrived after the race with all the proof … and they were just packing up. They were not even in the room. We showed them all the data, they said, `Give us five minutes,’ and then they found themselves with their hands tied, probably because they issued already the penalty and they didn’t know how to get back from that document.

“It is something that should not happen in Formula One, with (the) professionalism and standards Formula One has right now.”

Alonso, who also was spotted in an animated conversation Friday with FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, twice was penalized in Miami, but Alpine protested the late punishment he was handed for leaving the track and gaining position. The team insists he gave back the time gained and had data to prove its claim.

Alonso’s criticism comes amid tension between race management done by FIA, the governing body for F1, and teams that stems from last season’s finale in Abu Dhabi. The championship was controversially won by Max Verstappen following a sequence of events set in motion by then-race director Michael Masi.

Masi broke from protocol following a late caution and made rulings that allowed Verstappen to beat Lewis Hamilton for the championship by winning a race Hamilton had dominated until Masi’s decisions. The FIA conducted an offseason review of the sequence (concluding he had made an error), and Masi was removed from the role ahead of this season.

Masi has been replaced by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, as well as a new remote system that provides additional in-race support to the stewards.

Alonso on Friday said “for sure not” when asked if race control has improved with the changes. He also took aim at Wittich, who has been race director at every event this season. Freitas is making his debut as an F1 race director in Barcelona this weekend.

“You need to have some knowledge about racing before being a race director or trying to monitor a race,” Alonso said. “And I don’t think that knowledge is in place at the moment. I know there is a new race director here. I think Freitas has a lot more experience with WEC and with other categories at the top level. And I think that will already improve things.”

Wittich has race director experience in DTM, Formula 2 and Formula 3. He’s had supporting roles at F1 races ahead of his promotion this season. Freitas has been the World Endurance Championship’s race director and officiated GT and touring car racing.

The drivers have been at odds with Wittich for more than a month after the race director issued a ban on wearing jewelry and non-compliant underwear while in the car.

Hamilton has been given a two-race waiver to compete with piercings the seven-time champion says can only be surgically removed, and he protested the ban in Miami by arriving at the track wearing as much jewelry as he could fit. Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, wore a pair of underwear over his firesuit as he walked through the paddock in his own protest.

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”