Fernando Alonso said he had to cope with a problem in his Aston Martin’s power unit towards the end of the Australian Grand Prix.

Speaking before the stewards announced his penalty for his driving in the moments before George Russell crashed at turn six on the penultimate lap, Alonso said he had “some issues for the last 15 laps, something on the battery on the deployment”.

His radio messages during the race reveal more about what Alonso was referring to. Curiously, they also show he reported “problems on the throttle” immediately after Russell’s crash.

Whatever was going on, it seems Alonso did not blame these throttle problems for his deceleration as Russell approached him, which the stewards later described as “extraordinary” and cited as the reason for the post-race time penalty which dropped him two places to eighth.

Alonso’s radio from the end of the Australian Grand Prix

Alonso ran behind Russell at the start of the race but jumped ahead because he was able to pit during the first Virtual Safety Car period. That turned his deficit of nearly four seconds to Russell into an advantage of almost six.

But Russell’s pace was slightly better and he closed on Alonso over the remainder of the race. By lap 42 Alonso had made his final pit stop, which put Russell ahead.

That left Aston Martin wondering whether Russell would attempt to run to the end without pitting again or take a fresh set of tyres and attack Alonso from behind on fresher rubber. Mercedes chose the latter:

Lap: 42/58 ALO: 1’27.347
Cronin Track is all clear. Track is all clear. 17 laps to go. 17. Fernando HPP button off, HPP button off. And just the key management corners, but then good pace just in case Russell tries one stopping.
Alonso Race situation?
Cronin So basically Russell’s our race. If he tries to one-stop he’s currently 18 seconds ahead. I’ll keep you updated on the gap.
Lap: 43/58 ALO: 1’21.724
Alonso Yeah. And other threats?
Cronin The car behind is Lance, 10 seconds back. Same strategy as us but older tyres.
Alonso First set, what was the axle limitation on this compound?
Dudley So it was very balanced Fernando, good balance. We’ve added the 0.3% since that first stint.
Lap: 44/58 ALO: 1’21.394
Alonso Gap to Russell.
Dudley 18 seconds still, 18. Last lap Russell same lap time as us.
Alonso Wow.

Russell duly made his pit stop and emerged behind Alonso. While this was unfolding the Aston Martin driver was asking his team whether he had the maximum power available from his Mercedes motor.

He asked a series of questions about one setting which he was told is used for “fuel burn”. This setting allows teams to use up their fuel more quickly.

It is needed because teams cannot judge precisely how much fuel they will need at the start of a race. Changes in the weather and the circumstances of a driver’s race can make a significant difference to how much fuel they consume.

As the end of a race nears teams are better able to tell how much they need. If they have too much, and are therefore carrying extra weight, they can choose to burn it off in order to improve their car’s performance. This is often needed in races where they have to run at reduced speeds due to Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car periods, as happened in Melbourne.

With Russell gaining and the laps ticking down Alonso was understandably eager to ensure he had every last drop of power available:

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Lap: 45/58 ALO: 1’21.454
Alonso Why HPP is off?
Cronin Russell has boxed. Should be ahead. Be ready to use energy. 2.8 seconds, three seconds ahead of Russell.
Lap: 46/58 ALO: 1’21.344
Alonso Why HPP is off?
Cronin Just checking with the guys, stand by, just checking.
Cronin Gap to Russell is three. You can put HPP button on for three laps. We’ll see. HP button on.
Lap: 47/58 ALO: 1’21.183
Alonso Well I will need it when he comes. So you tell me why it’s off?
Cronin Fernando the button is just for fuel burn, yeah? That button is just fuel b- it’s not ACS. So you’ve got all the energy, you’re good.
Alonso I have a lot more de-rating than before. So my question is, if you want to save fuel, tell me. It’s very easy.
Cronin No, no we’re good Fernando, we’re good. All good. Just try and keep the pace up. We’ve got 11 laps to go at the end of this one.
Cronin Russell two seconds back, 11 more laps.
Lap: 48/58 ALO: 1’21.347
Alonso Is there any way to have more energy when he comes?
Cronin Negative Fernando, we’ve got the most energy we can get. We’ll just come down the strat switch if we have to keep using the energy button. We’ve got the most energy we can get.
Alonso was concerned how quickly Russell was closing on him

With five laps to go Russell was within DRS range of Alonso. The Aston Martin driver’s radio became quieter as he focused on resisting the growing pressure from behind:

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Lap: 49/58 ALO: 1’21.122
Cronin Ten laps remaining.
Cronin So these tyres are good to the end Fernando so we don’t need to do the lift-and-coast.
Lap: 53/58 ALO: 1’20.867
Cronin DRS for Russell, he’s just got it that time.
Lap: 54/58 ALO: 1’21.035
Cronin Energy if you need it.
Cronin Four more laps, four more laps.
Lap: 55/58 ALO: 1’20.952
Cronin Three more laps, three more laps.
Lap: 56/58 ALO: 1’20.752
Cronin Strat 10, strat 10. It’s the right thing to do. Two more laps.

On lap 57, Alonso backed off over 100 metres earlier than he had previously done for turn six, and touched the brakes, then accelerated, then braked again for the corner. Russell closed suddenly, washed out wide in Alonso’s slipstream and spun into a barrier, his wrecked Mercedes bouncing back onto the circuit.

After Russell’s crash, Alonso reported some kind of problem with his car. It appears he did not make any mention of it before the incident at turn six. However the stewards’ verdict does not indicate Alonso referred to this problem as a contributory factor in why he slowed down.

As he toured around under Virtual Safety Car conditions, Alonso referred to pressing something with the “maximum of my strength” at one point. As his onboard camera was facing his rear wing at this time it is not possible to see whether this was something on his steering wheel or elsewhere. The team has not explained what he was pressing:

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Albert Park, 2024
Alonso told Aston Martin to “check the throttle”

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Cronin So you are all clear behind now.
Alonso There are problems on the throttle.
Cronin Virtual Safety Car, slow down. Get your delta positive.
Cronin So Russell has reported that he’s okay, Fernando, just for info. It’s Virtual Safety Car, just positive at Safety Car, you’re good on your delta. Nobody’s in the pits. So there’s one more lap to go, one more lap.
Alonso Check the throttle.
Cronin Yeah, we can see that, yep. Something’s failing.
Alonso Something is stuck.
Cronin Yeah.
Alonso I’m pressing, yeah, maximum of my strength.
Cronin It’s a double yellow now, so go slow through here.
Alonso Wow. Is he okay?
Cronin Yeah he’s reported that he’s alright. He has come on the radio to say he’s okay. Russell is out of the car. If you can get it to the end, that’ll be mega. Got the chequered flag coming out now.

Despite the field circulating at reduced speeds under the Virtual Safety Car conditions, Alonso appeared concerned he might not be able to finish. His engine note stuttered at times:

Chequered flag
Cronin Can I have MFB blue, MFB blue override. Position 12. MFB Blue override position 12.
Alonso I don’t know if I will make it. We are not damaging the engine or something?
Cronin Just checking. We’ve been told that you can get it back if you can. Just checking.
Cronin So we’re happy it’s not damaging anything, Fernando. Double yellows here, obviously.
Cronin Okay mate well done. We’ll have to have a look at that, I’m not sure exactly what’s happened. You finished P6, Lance P7. Good job.

In their press release issued after Alonso’s penalty Aston Martin did not refer to any problems on his car or concerns he might not have been able to finish the race. Whatever was going on in his AMR24 may have had no connection to the Russell incident, but for now it remains unexplained.

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2024 Australian Grand Prix

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