FIA clarifies pit stop penalty rules after Saudi Arabia confusion

Fernando Alonso had this third-place finish at Saudi Arabia Grand Prix reinstated after initially being demoted to fourth Eric Alonso/Getty Images

MELBOURNE, Australia -- The FIA has clarified the rules around penalties being served at pit stops so as to avoid a repeat of the confusion over Fernando Alonso's podium finish in Saudi Arabia.

Alonso finished third on track in Saudi Arabia, but received a 10-second penalty after the podium ceremony -- demoting him to fourth -- before the penalty was overturned several hours later following an appeal.

The confusion centred around how Alonso's Aston Martin team served a separate five-second penalty during the race, which the Spaniard received for being out of position in his grid box at the start.

The rules state that when a car comes in to serve an in-race time penalty it must not be worked on until the time penalty has elapsed, but when Alonso arrived in his pit box the rear jack was fitted to his car in preparation for a tyre change.

This was initially considered to be a breach of the rules by the FIA's race director and remote operations centre, resulting in the 10-second post-race penalty, but it was overturned when Aston Martin appealed the decision and presented seven examples of similar situations at previous races.

Ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, the FIA clarified what constitutes "working on the car" during a penalty pit stop in the form of a sporting directive.

"For clarity and until further notice, in this context the physical touching of the car or driver by hand, tools or equipment (including the front and rear jacks) during any such penalty will all be considered to constitute work," the FIA sporting directive states.

It adds: "The use of cooling fans during a penalty is permitted providing any such fan does not physically touch the car."

The FIA also confirmed it had widened the painted slots on the grid by 20cm to make it easier for drivers to line up correctly and avoid the initial penalty Alonso received in Saudi Arabia for being too far left in his grid slot.

In a statement the FIA added: "a centre line will also be trialled to aid drivers in positioning their cars correctly during Friday's Free Practice in Melbourne and pending feedback and discussion at the drivers' briefing may also be implemented moving forward."