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Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 17:08 UK

Renault cleared for European GP

Fernando Alonso

Alonso loses his front wheel (UK users only)

Renault and Fernando Alonso have been cleared to compete in the European Grand Prix in Valencia after winning an appeal against a one-race ban.

The French team were punished after allowing Fernando Alonso to leave the pit lane with a loose wheel, which then came off, at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

However, Alonso will now be able to race at his home grand prix this weekend after the ban was overturned.

Motorsport's governing body (FIA) will instead fine Renault £30,000.

Alonso's right front wheel came off and bounced across the track at the race four weeks ago, race stewards subsequently ruling that the team's pit crew knew the wheel was not properly secured and failed to tell the driver.

But Renault team manager Steve Nielsen had said he was confident the team's suspension would be lifted.

"I've been optimistic since we got the penalty. We feel it's unjust," he said.

The stewards said Renault's pit crew "knowingly released car number seven from the pit stop position without one of the retaining devices for the wheel-nuts being securely in position."

606: DEBATE
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They also determined that "being aware of this, Renault failed to take any action to prevent the car from leaving the pit lane... and failed to inform the driver of this problem or to advise him to take appropriate action given the circumstances, even though the driver contacted the team by radio believing he had a puncture."

However, Nielsen insisted his team did not realise there was a problem with Alonso's car.

"We admit we did some stuff wrong, but we don't think that the penalty fits the crime," added Nielsen.

To argue their case Renault used comparative footage from races where drivers breached safety rules - but either went unpunished, or were punished less severely.

One example was German driver Sebastian Vettel racing at the Australian Grand Prix in March with a loose wheel hanging by the side of his car after colliding with BMW's Robert Kubica.

Vettel was fined £30,000 - the maximum amount that race stewards can levy - for continuing on three wheels and Renault said their punishment - at worst - should be a similar fine.

But Whiting said that incidents such as Vettel's had not occurred when leaving the pits, but during the race itself.

Renault engineering director Pat Symonds
Renault engineering director Pat Symonds attended the hearing

Renault were represented at the hearing by engineering director Pat Symonds and technical director Bob Bell, while F1 race director Charlie Whiting represented the FIA.

With the ban overturned Alonso will now race at his home grand prix while Renault test driver Romain Grosjean is likely to take Nelson Piquet Jr's seat.

Frenchman Grosjean should be asked to step in after Piquet Jr was told by Renault he will not continue driving for them in F1 this season.

The decision to allow Alonso and his Renault team to race is also likely to delight the Spanish crowd.

"The reason there are two races in Spain is largely because of Fernando's involvement," said Nielsen.

"People in Spain were not so interested in F1 until he got involved, and now it's a big sport there."

The incident was particularly pertinent as it happened the day after Brazilian Felipe Massa was hospitalised with life-threatening injuries suffered while racing.

The Ferrari driver was struck by an object dislodged from the Brawn GP car of Rubens Barrichello car during qualifying at the Hungaroring.

Massa had surgery on his skull and is recovering.

The previous week, 18-year-old F2 driver Henry Surtees - the son of former F1 champion John Surtees- was killed after losing consciousness and crashing into the barrier after a stray tyre hit him.



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see also
Renault cleared for European GP
17 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Hamilton grabs first win of 2009
26 Jul 09 |  Formula 1
Hungarian Grand Prix photos
26 Jul 09 |  Formula 1
Massa leaves Brazilian hospital
04 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Hungary Grand Prix as it happened
26 Jul 09 |  Formula 1
F1 to investigate Massa accident
26 Jul 09 |  Formula 1
'Lessons' from Surtees son death
04 Aug 09 |  England
Piquet Jr dropped by Renault team
04 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Alonso grabs shock Hungary pole
25 Jul 09 |  Formula 1
Probe into fatal Surtees accident
20 Jul 09 |  Motorsport
Surtees' son killed in race crash
20 Jul 09 |  Kent


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