Four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti on Monday warned that Fernando Alonso was lucky to survive a high-speed crash in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix – and called for a clampdown on dangerous driving.
In the wake of double world champion Max Verstappen’s emotional triumph, dedicated to team founder and co-owner Dieter Mateschitz, which clinched the constructors’ title for Red Bull, much focus switched to the dangers of an incident-filled race.
In particular, in a race that featured two Safety Car interventions and several high-speed duels, many seasoned observers drew attention to late defensive moves at high speed.
“These late changes of direction on the straight are going to kill someone,” said Franchitti, a Scot who won the IndyCar series in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and the Indianapolis 500 in 2007, 2010 and 2012.
Writing on Twitter, he added: “FIA, time to sort out this behaviour once and for all. It has bled down to junior formula too.”
Franchitti referred directly to the incident on lap 22 of the 56 lap race when Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll jinked ahead of his future team-mate, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, causing the Alpine driver to hit the rear of his car.
The Spaniard was then launched airborne by Stroll’s rear wheels and skewed into a frightening brush with the barriers at high speed, escaping unhurt and able to re-join the race after a pit-stop.
Stroll retired from the race and was later given a three-race grid penalty for this week’s Mexican Grand Prix (Oct 30).
“Wow,” said 1996 world champion Damon Hill, commenting on the crash. “Another close call there for the boys… A bit of a naughty late jink I think from Stroll.”
Another former F1 driver, Giedo van der Garde, tweeted: “Too aggressive by Lance – thank god they’re both alright.”
In a thrilling race, there were several exciting duels that raised eyebrows including those between the victorious Verstappen, who reprised his 2021 scrap with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, of Aston Martin, with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen.
Alonso, 41, admitted he had been frightened by his experience.
“It was not nice because when you are up in the air obviously you are not aware of where you are on track,” he said.
“I felt that I was much more on the left, and obviously if you catch the lateral fence, the metallic one, then you spin in the air 360. You see this kind of accident a lot in IndyCar—and they are quite dangerous.
“So I thought that I was ending up on that fence…. I’m happy to be here talking with you because I could surely be in the medical centre. So, I’m happy that I’m not…”
He accepted that the crash was a racing incident.
“We were lucky with the first Safety Car and then, on the restart, I tried to take Stroll’s slipstream. I moved to the side, to leave the slipstream, and he also moved… It was a bit of bad luck that we didn’t understand each other.”
Alonso finished the race in a remarkable seventh place, but afterwards another drama unfolded when rivals Haas protested that his right-side mirror had been broken and flapped dangerously before falling off.
He was given a 30-seconds time penalty that relegated him to 15th.
Alpine responded by protesting the validity of the Haas protest as it was lodged 24 minutes after the permitted deadline.
They added that Alonso’s car was deemed to be safe by the race stewards.
Team chief Otmar Szafnauer said: “It’s ridiculous. It’s obviously accident damage and cars are allowed to finish with accident damage – it happens all the time.”
Alonso was merely glad to be alive. “It was my best race of the season,” he said. “But the fear is still in my stomach. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I just wanted to finish.”
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