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Alonso Slams Formula 1 Refereeing, Happy to Remain on the ‘Dark Side’

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Fernando Alonso driving the Alpine F1 car at the 2021 Austrian GP
Fernando Alonso in the Alpine A521 at the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix
Photo: Lukas Raich via CC

Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso is changing his driving style in response to what he perceives to be inadequate rule enforcement. The motorsport veteran, who is also a two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, says that recent races have convinced him other drivers have not been following the rules as diligently as he has been, and that he now feels “a little bit like an idiot” for respecting the rules himself.

Alonso, who took a brief hiatus from F1 in 2020 to pursue other racing endeavors and returned to the sport with the new Alpine team, was especially vocal during the Styrian and Austrian Grand Prix weekends about rival drivers holding up others during qualifying and going wide on the first lap without repercussions.

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He believes the race stewards should be tougher on those breaking the rules and called the FIA’s reluctance to enforce the sport’s rules “sad.” Now, following the British Grand Prix, Alonso says he has not been satisfied by race director Michael Masi’s explanations, and that he doesn’t want to continue complaining about other drivers. Instead, he’ll begin copying them.

“We tried to speak with the race director and we try always to say or blame other things that the people were doing with not many answers, and that was strange,” he explained. “I don’t want to be blaming, I don’t want to be crying every race for something that the others do. The strategy in the first races didn’t have any solutions or didn’t brought us any solution. So we understood that the solution is to do what the others are doing. That’s the only thing we can do.”

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McLaren driver Lando Norris complained that Fernando Alonso illegally weaved under braking during the sprint qualifying race at Silverstone, which got him a warning from Masi. “I was surprised,” Alonso responded. “I never move under braking. I was moving at the beginning of the straight. But I don’t care, to be honest. I have been on the other side for now, nine races. It’s going to be the same for the remainder of the year. I will be on the dark side this time.”

Alonso compared rival driver moves to soccer players handling the ball in the penalty area without punishment. “If the referee is doing nothing, we understand that we can also play with the hands in the penalty area. So we do that.”

Alonso has long been regarded as one of the cleanest drivers in F1. During the sprint qualifying race where he was accused of weaving under braking, he was the standout performer, gaining six places in the opening lap. It will be interesting to see how “dark side” Alonso stacks up throughout the rest of the 2021 F1 season.