Fernando Alonso lucky to escape punishment after ‘playing’ and ‘meddling’

Alex Albon was not impressed with Fernando Alonso during qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Former Red Bull driver Mark Webber suggests that Alpine’s Fernando Alonso was rather fortunate to escape punishment for holding up Williams’ Alex Albon in qualifying in Baku

The drivers had to hurry out for their final runs of Q1 on Saturday after Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll caused a red flag by crashing with two-and-a-half minutes to go of the session, so they were all bunched up as they began their laps.

Albon spent almost the entirety of his lap stuck behind Alonso, denying the Thai-Briton the chance to improve his lap time.

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The 40-year-old eventually got out of the way by taking to the escape road at Turn 15, but the damage to Albon’s lap had already been done.

“He needs to get penalised this guy,” fumed the Williams driver over the radio.

“He has to, this is ridiculous… he was doing it the whole lap, he was driving slowly on purpose.”

“It was so obvious how he went off the track, it was ridiculous. He braked so early and then he just went off the circuit.”

After the session, the 26-year-old said that Alonso “played the system” by holding him up, going off the track and causing a yellow flag,

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But the double world champion insisted that he could not have made the corner due to overheating brakes, while pointing at Sebastian Vettel and the McLaren drivers, who also had moments at Turn 15.

“There was a lot of smoke on the brakes even when I stopped [in the garage],” explained Alonso.

“Everyone complains when there is a yellow flag, but I don’t think that today that corner was the easiest corner to negotiate. I went off, yes, I was with the old tyres, yes.

“Sebastian tried to make the corner and touched the wall. The McLarens [were] undecided to make the corner and then they took the escape road as I did.

“I mean, it was a lot of frustration, I think, for everybody at the end of Q1, with two minutes and a half and a queue of 15 cars trying to open the lap. I understand them but for sure it was a mistake that can happen for everyone.”

Webber was not buying any of that, affirming that his friend and former rival can be “unpredictable.”

“I’m not sure what [Alonso] was inventing there, what sort of scenario he was trying to concoct for himself, but ultimately he got away with it,” said the Australian during Channel 4’s coverage of the race.

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“Albon’s not normally vocal so that was genuine frustration for him, as strong as I’ve ever heard him on the radio about someone. In terms of the hierarchy, that’s a pretty big shot from him against Fernando.

“Fernando can do unpredictable things, but obviously he’s world class and he loves to still have a bit of meddling every now and again.”

Alice Powell, who has won four races in the W series and is a mentor for Alpine academy driver and fellow W series racer Abbi Pulling, does not understand why Alonso held Albon up, given that he was highly likely to be safe anyway.

“As Mark said, Albon’s never usually vocal. It was looked at, deemed there was nothing wrong, but I don’t understand why Fernando needed to feel the need to do that.

“He was safe, he said about the brakes being hot, but the team would have cooled them down. So I think it was just a bit of playing there.”

Alonso ended the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in P7 after holding off the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo, while Albon climbed up to 12th.