Nico Rosberg, Max Verstappen, Hockenheimring, 2016

Stewards get new powers to investigate incidents

2017 F1 season

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Formula One stewards have been given new penalties to investigate incidents during races in 2017.

Revisions to the Formula One sporting regulations published today allow the stewards to “investigate an incident noted by themselves” without the race director having previously reported it.

The new rules also state stewards will only penalise a driver if it is “clear to the stewards that a driver was wholly or predominantly to blame”.

Further additions to the rule book for 2017 will see drivers receive grid penalties if they receive a five-second, ten-second, drive-through or ten-second stop-and-go penalty during a race but cannot serve it due to retirement. Grid drop penalties are no longer open to appeal.

The number of penalties imposed on drivers per race fell slightly last year after reaching an all-time high in 2015.

Previous rule

38.1 ‘Incident’ means any occurrence or series of occurrences involving one or more drivers, or any action by any driver, which is reported to the stewards by the race director (or noted by the stewards and subsequently investigated) which:

a) Necessitated the suspension of a race under Article 41.
b) Constituted a breach of these Sporting Regulations or the Code.
c) Caused a false start by one or more cars.
d) Caused a collision.
e) Forced a driver off the track.
f) Illegitimately prevented a legitimate overtaking manoeuvre by a driver.
g) Illegitimately impeded another driver during overtaking.

Unless it was completely clear that a driver was in breach of any of the above, any incidents involving more than one car will normally be investigated after the race.

38.2 a) It shall be at the discretion of the stewards to decide, upon a report or a request by the race director, if a driver or drivers involved in an incident shall be penalised

New 2017 rule

38.1 The race director may report any on-track incident or suspected breach of these Sporting Regulations or the Code (an ‘incident’) to the stewards. After review it shall be at the discretion of the stewards to decide whether or not to proceed with an investigation.

The stewards may also investigate an incident noted by themselves.

38.2 a) It shall be at the discretion of the stewards to decide if any driver involved in an incident should be penalised.

Unless it is clear to the stewards that a driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for an incident no penalty will be imposed.

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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...

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  • 18 comments on “Stewards get new powers to investigate incidents”

    1. Revisions to the Formula One sporting regulations published today allow the stewards to “investigate an incident noted by themselves” without the race director having previously reported it.

      Finally. It’s about time that Charlie Whiting’s increasingly partisan and unsporting decisions as to what constitutes an incident were bypassed altogether. This coupled with the updated stewarding guidelines strikes me as a positive move — at least, so long as the stewards are willing to start doing their jobs properly, that is. (Certain stewards seem to me to be far more interested in aiding their countrymates than anything else.)

    2. Very happy to see Whiting taken out of it, but just don’t understand what has changed in defining the blame, as they surely didn’t penalize someone before that wasn’t wholly or predominantly to blame?

      1. In some cases the rules/practice of their application were heavily focussed on almost automatical penalties for cases like forcing someone off track etc, most of the time after a driver got away with it and both drivers, the media and fans called out for more stringent punishment @balue

        1. Actually, the wording makes me a little worried. I haven’t read enough of the regs to be certain how much this new rule applies to, so my fears may be unfounded.

          Unless it is clear to the stewards that a driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for an incident no penalty will be imposed.

          So, let us consider an unsafe release. The driver is not predominantly to blame, his pit crew is. With such limitted visibility, he must rely on his crew to watch the pit lane. So no penalty.

          What about a defective pit limiter? A technical infringement on the car? These are not the driver’s fault, so should they be excused from penalties?

          1. The race director may report any on-track incident or suspected breach of these Sporting Regulations or the Code (an ‘incident’)

            I’m guessing unsafe release wouldnt fall under the purview of “on-track incident”

    3. Now Vettel will need to learn all the stewards’ names before he starts whingeing to them on the radio!

      Not sure I welcome even more grid penalties. Some grids are messed up way too much by things that happened in previous races. Not very fair on fans who’ve saved up to go and see all the top drivers giving it everything in qualifying or the race.

      1. I agree with you about those grid penalties @bullfrog. On the one hand, I get that it felt too arbitrarily to have an “x-second” time penalty if it happened in the last laps of the race. But the huge advantage was that if a driver was wronged in one race, he would have a chance of profiting from the penalty in that same race too.

        Now the penalty does somewhat punish the wrongdoer. But it completely ignores the harm it did to the victim (or do we want to give those a “grip bump” to reflect that???). It means that if you want, you can now really hurt an opponent in one race, provided you are willing to start with a disadvantage at the next one (and take a new GB+Engine at the same time too?)

    4. GREAT news !! Really, really, happy to see that we have a chance FIA will let drivers race.

      So, in 2017:
      1) Tyres allow drivers to push their cars.
      2) Stewards allow drivers to race.

      Finally ! Sounds very good, even if it should always have been that way.
      Now, wait and see.

    5. Not sure if this means less penalty’s next year.

    6. Here we go again. I’d have thought the best way to go was to reduce all these nonsense penalties except for truly ridiculous or dangerous driving

    7. The previous rule had a clause that said:

      ‘Incident’ means any occurrence… …which is reported to the stewards by the race director (or noted by the stewards and subsequently investigated)

      In other words, stewards were able to investigate incidents independently before this – and weren’t doing so. If they were independently investigating, why would there be so much excitement about the restatement of an existing power?

      What I do find interesting is that the new definition:

      – no longer specifies what an “incident” is, and relies on natural language to define it. Probably an improvement, given it wasn’t carrying any special meaning before.

      – The stewards have lost the power to investigate the following, unless they cause a possible breach of regulations as perceived by the stewards or race director:

      – Things which cause red flags
      – Things which cause false starts
      – Collisions
      – Drivers forced off-track
      – Illegitimate prevention of overtaking or of being overtaken

      This is unlikely to affect short-term discipline, because breaches of regulations are still meant to be investigated, but will affect things like understanding of accidents and general driver conduct, as files will no longer be kept on such matters. These are used for things like understanding accident patterns in F1 and ensuring a consistent code of conduct is delivered from the top to the bottom of the FIA sporting ladder. (The latter hasn’t been going too well recently anyway, but this won’t help…) Reduced understanding of such things may result in long-term deterioration of driver discipline.

      – There is clear pressure to award fewer penalties, and to provide more justification for why penalties are issued. There is already a significant increase in bad driving; expect bad driving to increase and be further rewarded through officialdom ignorance. Until the point where something happens to force the stewards to clamp down.

    8. Drivers allowed to race. Hallelujah

    9. Drivers allowed to race. Hallelujah

    10. wrong – we don’t need more opinionated prejudiced retired people independently investigating drivers they don’t like!
      We need ‘less’ stewarding; not more!

    11. Unless it is clear to the stewards that a driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for an incident no penalty will be imposed.

      I don’t like this rule, it opens up more room for interpretation and excuses. “It’s not my fault, I was squeezed into him!” “My brakes were failing!” “The sun was in my eye!” Let alone unsafe releases, surely the drivers aren’t to blame there… Just a weird addition.

      I like the clarity that an incident can be investigated without complaint. Hopefully more consistency in cases when the teams don’t complain and less waiting on teams to get on the radio before an investigation.

    12. I’m thinking…. would it a bad thing if fans were allowed to vote on such a thing? I like fan boost in Formula E, that works. The new F1 management wants to get fans closer to F1….

      1. I’m all for nuanced responses, seeing things from multiple perspectives, looking for positives in the foulest comments…

        But *honestly*, fan boost? Just fan boost alone is the key to not take FE seriously. Period. I must politely but sincerely urge you to not use those words again in relation to F1 like you did for the chance exists that Sean Bratches might read it and actually like it… the horror

    13. Just let them race and if someone screws up take a page out of the Nascar book and let them beat each other up in front of a large TV audience

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