Which former Formula 1 driver would make a good permanent steward?

Posted on

| Written by

Need an experienced ex-F1 driver to be a steward? I've got just the guy...

Following the recent spate of dubious penalty decisions involving Sebastien Bourdais, Lewis Hamilton (at Fuji and Spa) and Felipe Massa, many F1 drivers have voiced a desire to see a permanent stewards appointed.

Ideally they would like one with relevant, recent Grand Prix experience. So who could fit the bill? Here’s a few potential names.

Jean Alesi

F1 starts: 201
Last Grand Prix: Suzuka, 2001
Pros: Vast experience, drove for several teams.
Cons: Never really shook off his wild side. In his final DTM season in 2006 he was fined for brake-testing team mate Mika Hakkinen.

Read more about Jean Alesi: Jean Alesi biography

Michael Schumacher

F1 starts: 248
Last Grand Prix: Interlagos, 2006
Pros: Can you think of a more experienced driver? Knows every trick in the book…
Cons: …because he got away with most of them. Several drivers voiced complaints about the standards of his driving while he was in F1. There’s a slim chance he might possibly be seen as being a little bit pro-Ferrari.

Read more about Michael Schumacher: Michael Schumacher biography

Mika Hakkinen

F1 starts: 161
Last Grand Prix: Suzuka, 2001
Pros: Went toe-to-toe with F1’s most successful champion – and won.
Cons: There’s a slim chance he might possibly be seen as being a little bit pro-McLaren.

Read more about Mika Hakkinen: Mika Hakkinen biography

Olivier Panis

F1 starts: 157
Last Grand Prix: Magny-Cours, 2005 (practice only)
Pros: Confines his current racing activity for to the F1 off-season, ice racing with Toyota.
Cons: Like Alesi, has just one win to his name – did he see enough of the sharp end of an F1 race to be considered sufficiently experienced?

Mika Salo

F1 starts: 109
Last Grand Prix: Suzuka, 2002
Pros: Experienced and without any obvious grudges against former rivals or teams…
Cons: …except maybe Toyota. No wins.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen

F1 starts: 156
Last Grand Prix: Suzuka, 2003
Pros: Experienced and without any obvious grudges against former rivals or teams…
Cons: …except maybe Williams.

David Coulthard

F1 starts: 245*
Last Grand Prix: Shanghai, 2008*
Pros: Stacks of experience and fresh from the cockpit (if one can be ‘fresh’ after getting out of a cockpit).
Cons: Expected to be working for the BBC next year, possibly too recent a retiree who could be seen as biased.
*Career ongoing but ending at conclusion of 2008 season.

Read more about David Coulthard: David Coulthard biography

Which ex-driver do you think would be a good choice as a permanent steward?

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

66 comments on “Which former Formula 1 driver would make a good permanent steward?”

  1. How about Alain Prost?
    He’s certainly been involved with a lot of past decisions and infractions.
    ….and he’s been a team owner too.

  2. Chalky – controversial… still keeps his hand in though, he does ice racing with Panis.

  3. Jackie Stewart

  4. It would be terrible to lose him from the British commentary team but Brundle would be my choice.

    I rarely disagree with what he is saying about the on track action and his passion for the sport is infectious. I don’t think he is biased towards Hamilton, whenever Hamilton has made mistakes he will be the first to criticize (Fuji).

    He has been out of F1 long enough not to have any serious dislikes or biases towards teams or drivers, but been watching every race and commentating on it so still has intricate knowledge of the sport. Personally I can’t think of anyone better for the job.

    Schumacher…..are you joking Kieth! He has prancing horses running through his veins!

    Ps. this is a total pipe dream of course because the FIA have it in for brundle and would more likely have Montizemelo as a steward.

  5. How about Villeneuve?

  6. Allan McNish would have my vote, if he hadn’t already been completely lost to sports cars.

    I’d say Villeneuve or Montoya, but we already have too many stewards who think everyone’s an idiot except themselves…

  7. But which recent race driver would really want to take this job?

    Then indeed how do you prevent favoritism? That would seem the biggest “con” of the whole thing.

    Maybe they could include the current drivers for problems that are handled after the race. Have a voting system were 3 or 5 drivers look into the matter and vote.

    Maybe durin the race the stewards should just focus on rules that are clear (ie drive through a red light, enter a closed pitlane, false start etc).

    If they could make some rules more clear then that would help too. When you are off line and you t-bone a car while “overtaking” you get a drive through (like Massa at Fuji and Kovalainen at Spa)

    Other more unclear “racing incidents” could be investigated after the race and punishment would be handed down after the race too (drop 5 or 10 spots for the next race or add a time penalty). For all I care they carefully check all incidents after the race. They should punish a lot less than is done now though.

  8. How about Johnny Herbert? I can’t remember seeing his name attributed to many comments about any current drivers or teams.

    Or Paul Stoddart? Ok he’s not a past-driver, but I’d say he knows enough about the sport(though he’s hardly likely to tow the FiA party-line!!).

    Actually there is one person who I think has the knowledge about the sport and would be objective enough to put aside any past allegences, unfortunately he’s techincal director at Honda at the moment!!

  9. I think if they were to recruit a ex F1 driver to the stewards it would require a certain personality trait that could show certain self confidence and be prepared to be criticised publicly. Unlike the other stewards, they would be in the public eye more naturally as they are famous ex drivers, so drivers that cannot defend themselves or deal with the pressure would not be suitable – ie Panis, Salo and Frentzen are out of the question in my view.

    That leave two possible candidates, Schumacher and David Coulthard.

    Schumacher is on the payroll at Ferrari so unfortunately he is a definite NO. Could you imagine the extra critisim the FIA would get for employing a Ferrari staff member, coupled with the fact Jean Todd is tipped to run for Max’s position when he finally decides to pursue his odd leisure activities. That would be Ferrari’s two top men running the sport. My point being they have conflicts or interest.

    That leaves DC- he is strong willed and does not have his fingers in too many pies. That is assuming he will have to leave his roll as RBR’s consultant.

    I don’t neccessarily feel it has to be an recent F1 driver – Ex Drivers from other high level formula would be equally worthy in my opinion.

  10. How about Damon Hill ?

  11. I think the ideal situation would not be to have one driver, but two drivers who drove for completely different teams and have completely different histories. If I had to nominate two current drivers, it would be David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello. If it was past drivers, probably Schumacher and Hakkinen together. That way you eliminate bias (if a McLaren and Ferrari got together, both stewards would have to agree, etc.)

  12. First, I think it needs to be drivers that have recently been in F1. The sport is so different from 20 years ago, so we need stewards with recent racing experience. Second, it have to be drivers that are respected by others.

    Without consideration to what they do today, I would go with names like Berger, Brundle, Irvine, Panis, Schumacher. I also think Barrichello would be excellent when he retires.

  13. ricardo patrese
    nelson piquet
    nigel mansell

  14. I can’t see how anyone could accept such a position to be honest – whoever it did wouldn’t help with the favouritism point as their career would be dragged up everytime a decision was made!

    DC would be my immediate choice, but were he to make a decision in McLaren’s favour his long time at that team would be brought up and should he decide against them, then everyone would say “he was there a long time, but Ron was always against him so this is payback.”

    As for older drivers, while Stewart or Moss etc may have a better idea of racing would they really know any more about a current car, what it can and can’t do, etc than any of the other stewards?

    It’s a job noone would want.

  15. And I think there would be a good chance if someone like Mansell, Irvine, Montoya or Villeneuve was appointed that they could make decisions to deliberately cause controversy! :)

  16. Why don’t they just hire all the former race driver fathers of current drivers?

    – Keke/Nico Rosberg
    – Nelson Piquet/Jr.
    – Satoru/Kazuki Nakajima
    – John/Jenson Button (John did Rallycross)

  17. I like Mark’s idea of putting Schumacher and Hakkinen together. While one is aligned with Ferrari and the other with McLaren, both are good enough mates (if not very close friends) to put their heads together and make some common-sense decisions.

  18. Journeyer – Plus they don’t have any ties to lower teams (if you don’t count Schumacher working for Briatore for a time).

  19. If we’re considering people with long-term F1 experience, then I hear that there’s a certain J Allen who might be looking for gainful employment next year…

  20. If it weren’t for the fact that I want to see him racing again I would vote for Anthony Davidson. He has been very fair, but clear, on the Five Live podcasts I’ve listened to.

  21. ALEX WURZ would be a perfect fit ……A pretty good guy and has all the qualities to be a steward I suppose

  22. 02CH36 – that’s my favourite suggestion so far. Wurz is a smart guy, he’d be a great choice.

  23. But, if it was a pair of drivers, who would be a good partner with Wurz?

  24. I believe whoever is put there will do a much better job than the biased FIA. Mclaren have been dropped 5places down the grid 3 times this year already, but Heidfeld only gets dropped 3 places, not once but twice. How can that be explained. It should even be noted that in the second instance a Mclaren got demoted, there was no complaint from any team.

  25. Alex Wurz is probably in my top 3 favourite F1 drivers. He always seems like such a solid, rooted person. Screw giving him a steward’s job, make him FIA president.

    Plus, he always used to throw up the devil horns whenever he was on the podium. Great stuff! \m/

    I would say drivers like Villeneuve or Montoya, but I should think they’ve more than washed their hands of anything to do with F1 by now.

    I should think Coulthard would be quite fair about things. Barrichello, and I think Trulli as well, when they retire.

  26. I think would be fantastic a mix of old guys with the (almost) new one´s.

    Sir Jackye/Alesi
    Stirling Moss/Hakkinen

    So, we would be have a team of Stewards that should covered almost all Formula 1 years. And we could put down the Mr Donnelly´s argument about the experience of this guys has been tied to the past.

  27. Out of all the names listed, Damon Hill is, I belive, by far the most suited.
    He’s got F1 in his blood, and has shown he can be diplomatic with his chairmanship of the BRDC.

  28. I’d agree with Alexander Wurz, but it’s really a pick of a not so great bunch candidates.

    And bear in mind, Alexander Wurz would’ve favoured the penalty Hamilton got in Spa, as his commentary on Austrian TV proved.

  29. Whoever they pick, I think the most important part is that they pick SOMEBODY. Having a single person at any race will inherently provide a more consistent reading of the rules that what we’re getting not… weather you agree with that reading or not, it should always be the same.

  30. Scootin159 – I agree with you. But, at the same time, a person should not be consistently in favour of one team or another.

  31. How about Damon Hill. He’s a gentleman, an intellectual and knows everything about racing.

  32. I’d trust Alesi or Panis, but agree with others that the combination of Hakkinen/Schumacher would be perfect.

  33. Sorry, I like Damon Hill and I think he is an upstanding guy, but I would never suggest him for this role. He would get ****** with Ecclestone or Mosley and then just make a mess of it.

  34. I Vote Damon Hill (and make it quick the current stewards are bringing the sport into disrepute) DO NOT let Schumacher anywhere near the place ‘there will be a riot’!!

  35. Alesi and/or Hill would be my choice.

    Both have plenty of experience and are able to demonstrate a good level of impartiality.

    Much as I love Schumacher he wouldn’t be able to give the impression of being impartial, even if he was trying to be.
    He’d always be questioned over his decisions regarding Ferrari & has some history with a few current drivers.

    Coulthard would also suffer from his existing history with the current drivers.

  36. Alain Prost would be a good choice.Experience, knowledge and still a very well respect world formula 1 champion.

  37. I think you don’t know Micheal Schumacher at all if you think he’d accept such a boring job. The guys you’re talking about, expecially the less old ones, they love racing, they love speed, and being the referee has got to be the most repulsive thing they would ever want to do. Except those who like PR stuff and were never that fast, i.e. Coulthard.

  38. Trulli so he finally will retire and we won’t have Trulli-trains anymore.

  39. Is that you, Mr. Dennis?

  40. David Watkins
    23rd October 2008, 19:53

    1) Jackie Stewart

    2) Alain Prost

    3) Alessandro Nannini

  41. My vote goes for Hill!

    He’s been driving several teams: from the strongest to one of the weakest so he knows races from all drivers positions. He is world champion, he’s been involved in one of the most famous incidents ever and was a victim! He knows how it feels like someone crashes into you and runs easily away with that. Moreover, he was excellent driver and as somebody mentioned – he’s diplomatic as well. The only bias I can think of – he’s Brit and when there’s Brit on British/German car competing with Brazilian on Italian car…

    MS has too dirty reputation, DC is a born loser… Hakkinen? I really think Hill is more experienced. However, there might be good ex-racers from older times but indeed I wasn’t watching F1 at those times. So from these times – Hill no.1

  42. I don’t think it has to be someone recent. All the older drivers have watched modern racing evolve and are perfectly capable of making good decisions. Any driver would be better than a bunch of FIA petty politicians.

    Of the recent drivers only Wurz would be acceptable. Of the older drivers I would have Stewart, Lauda, Prost and Rosberg. All are fiercely independent and would not be able to be pushed around by Max. Some of them may have associations with existing teams but none of them sould let that sway their judgement.

  43. Derek Warwick, Ricardo Patrese, Rene Arnoux, Alex Wurz, Damon Hill, Niki Lauda, Nigel Mansell, John Watson, Alan Jones. Thats my picks, take it or leave it!

  44. Derek Warwick.

  45. Mario Andretti

    World champion, diplomatic, raced at several times but has been out of F1 for a while, and has retired as a driver, has vast experience.

  46. Steven Roy – I agree. I don’t see why it can’t be someone who was racing years ago. Racing is racing, most stewards decisions are about ‘racing incidents’, so the technological advancements of the cars don’t matter too much. And if they did come in to play, I don’t see why they couldn’t have a technological assistant.

    My vote would be for Stewart and/or Lauda.

  47. I think Steven Roy has a good point about how necessary it is that the drivers are recent’. Racing is racing after all. But I think someone who’s been closer to the sport post-retirement (say, Lauda or Hill) is a better bet than someone who hasn’t (say, Scheckter).

  48. Well, we need three stewards, plus the ‘over-seer’ to get rid of the current lot.

    There have been some great suggestions, but the mischevious side of me nominates Paul Stoddart, Alan Jones, Damon Hill and Alain Prost.

    Just sit back and watch the foreworks !

  49. Oops that should read fireworks, not foreworks (which sounds really wrong)

    Plus I’ve changed my mind. Swap le professeur for Montoya !

  50. Our Nige!!!

  51. Chris Johnson
    23rd October 2008, 23:49

    It would be a thankless job, I’m not sure who would want it (Jackie Stewart), unless there was some prestige involved. Ideally, they’d have a pool of 10 or so ex-drivers, detail their authority and rotate a crew of 3 of them for each race.

    Or, just let drivers settle things themselves, out on the track, as it should be done.

    I’d vote for:
    Nelson Piquet
    Keke Rosberg
    Jacques Laffite
    Thierry Boutsen
    Damon Hill
    Niki Lauda
    Martin Brundle
    Eddie Irvine
    Mika Hakkinen
    Ralf Schumacher

  52. michael counsell
    24th October 2008, 0:36

    Pedro Diniz, Riccardo Rosset and Tora Takagi.

  53. Out of Chris’ list, here’s what I think:

    Piquet – NO, he has a son in F1 and he has been a bit wreckless with a road car – didn’t he lose his license and have to take classes to get it back?
    Rosberg – NO, he has a son in F1 too, and unlike Nelsinho, I don’t see Nico leaving anytime soon.
    Laffite – MAYBE, he hasn’t been active in F1 since his retirement, and he wasn’t at the sharp end of the grid too often… but his lack of bias would be good
    Hill – MAYBE, a World Champion who knows what he’s talking about… but his role as BRDC president would cause a bit of a conflict of interest
    Lauda – YES, I like him here. Some don’t like his outspokenness, but he usually knows what he’s talking about. But Lauda is much better as part of a team, not a sole steward.
    Brundle – YES, absolutely. But I’d rather hear him on the mic than read his decisions from a stewards room.
    Irvine – NO, those ego issues are troubling… Also, a previous driver for Ferrari.
    Hakkinen – YES (see earlier comment)
    Ralf – NO, he committed way too many offenses in his career, and his emotional… outbursts wouldn’t make him fit to be a steward in my book.

  54. How about James Allen?

  55. It doesnt matter who they get for a steward. mclaren supports will still whinge when things dont go their way…….

  56. Some good names mentioned, and those with good close racing experience would get my vote: Prost, Hill, Lauda. But I know who I’d pick for a permanent chair of stewards: Nigel Roebuck, who’s always written a lot of good sense over many years about racing and rules.

  57. what about Mark Mossley

  58. Max Mosley
    Hugo chavez

  59. Eureka!

    We’ll get the safety car driver to be a steward! No problem if he’s out on the track, maybe his navigator/co-driver can fill in for him while he’s sitting next to him with a screen!

    The only real problem I can foresee is that if the safety car drivers are supplied by the FIA, then they’ll have a serious credibility problem. Unless we get the entire competing F1 driver grid to unanimously vote on a single driver, from any racing background in the world.

    But on a more serious note, what kind of qualifications does the safety car driver have? Even though they look slow on TV, I’ve seen them correct oversteer in the wet and it’s no joke. I don’t know what speeds they’re doing, or how close they drive to the limit of the car but I’m guessing there must be skill sets behind it all that even the F1 drivers wouldn’t laugh at. Especially at street circuits where it’s most unforgiving.

    We might even take it a little further and have the stewards rotate on safety car duty BEHIND THE WHEEL so that they can at least fathom the people they pass so much judgement upon.

  60. Aaron Shearer
    24th October 2008, 13:54

    I personally think that if there were to be ex-formula 1 drivers it would have to be Stewart, Lauda and Hill. Stewart and Lauda still come to every f1 race. Whilst hill occasionally pops in now and then. So they all have experience and all knows what it takes to win a world championship. So why not let them battle it out?

  61. SOmeone took my name,

    anyhow, i say, olivier Panis would be a great choice, but he is heading the french A1 GP team right now.

    ALesi is too reckless, unintentionally most of the time… nice guy overall though. i’m a fan of his, and i met him once, and for some reason i didnt say what i really wanted to say. made a complete ass of myself…. haha

    i’m behind the motion for Alexander Wurz However, but how ready is he to be sidelined to the referee club?

    Barrichello would be an ok choice, since he’ll do anyhting to stay in the F1 world… or coulthard,

  62. Mansell or prost for me.

  63. michael counsell
    25th October 2008, 0:37

    Andrea de Cesaris should be considered. Think about it…

  64. Sorry, former drivers should NOT be stewards. Regardless of when they raced they all have preformed opinions of what is hard nosed competitive driving and what is a penalty.

    Full time permanent paid and trained stewards, who are answerable to the race director, Charlie Whiting, is the logical solution. Get rid of Alan Donnelly, he has no credibility whatsoever. A small pool of Stewards, say three full time and three alternates, should fill the bill.

    Select them based on racing involvement over their careers as opposed to the whims of Max or other national political considerations.

  65. Gotta agree with Steve – Get Jacques Villeneuve in to do it. He bears a grudge against just about everyone and nobody likes him. Perfect!

  66. Definitely not Schumacher. Too close to Ferrari. The latins like Montoya are too likely to be partisan also.

    Alesi, Stewart, Moss, Brundle, Prost, Coulthard, Mansell even?, all qualify well in my book.

Comments are closed.