F1 grid box tweaks will not eradicate problems, says Alonso

In the wake of penalties given out to Alonso and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon in the opening two races of the season for starting outside their markers, the FIA has widened the grid boxes in Melbourne.

But despite an extra 20cm of space, plus the trial of a new guidance line to help drivers line up, Alonso is sceptical of them being enough to assist with the difficulties being faced.

In particular, he says that drivers face the double whammy of seeing very little as they line up in position while also having to be totally focused on a separate yellow line that they cannot start in front of.

“It is difficult and we are very concentrated on the yellow line to not go too far forward,” he said.

“So, you approach not looking at the box, you are looking on one side of the cockpit. So maybe that’s a bit of a distraction.”

Asked if the new dimension and sighting line would be a help, Alonso said: “The central line? I don’t think so.

“Because, as I said, you approach the box looking sideways, so you’re not looking forward. That’s the biggest difficulty – but the 20 centimetres will help, I guess.

“There’s going to be some circuits, maybe Monaco, or Imola that you start a little bit sideways anyway. Because if not, you crash if you start there straight. So, we’ll have to see how we apply the penalties and things like that in those races.”

Ocon, who picked up a penalty in the season opener in Bahrain, predicted that there would be further infractions this year because it was so much harder to see

Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 Team

Photo by: Lionel Ng / Motorsport Images

“It’s because we can’t see anything from where we are sitting,” explained the Frenchman. “We’ve worked a lot with my team to try and lower me in the car, to have a lower position.

“We obviously were out of the rules [in Bahrain], so we deserve the penalty. But yeah, there’s going to be a lot more cars that are going to be penalised this year, that’s for sure.”

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F1 rookie Logan Sargeant said the difference in visibility between grand prix cars and the F3 and F2 machinery he has raced previously was quite substantial.

“I think just coming from F3 and F2 where you can see everything, and you can see the yellow line, it’s really easy to line the car up in the right spot,” said the American.

“The first thing I noticed the first time I lined up in a grid box in an F1 car, is you can’t see anything. You can’t see any of the lines, so you have to take a marker on the wall to your right or left to know how far forward you can pull as well. It is a lot more difficult, and I’m not surprised that there are struggles.”

Mercedes driver George Russell believes that it was quite hard for the FIA to hand out sanctions for a rules breach that was quite easy for drivers to make.

“I think it’s incredibly tough,” he said. “I think a five-second penalty for being laterally out is probably too harsh. We can’t see anything when we line up so, yeah, the penalty needs to be reflected on the difficulty.”

Additional reporting by Filip Cleeren and Adam Cooper

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