Romain Grosjean, Haas, Red Bull Ring, 2018

FIA shows how it uses ‘Race Watch’ to keep penalties consistent

Paddock Diary: Austrian Grand Prix day two

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The FIA gave new insight into its ‘Race Watch’ stewarding system following complaints from Romain Grosjean about the penalty he received in the French Grand Prix. @DieterRencken took a close look on day two at the Austrian Grand Prix.

8am Friday

Being “dug in” at a compact apartment in Knittelfeld’s high street, I’m only four miles from the circuit, so it’s a fairly leisurely drive. Despite the Red Bull Ring, nee A1 Ring, nee Österreichring, originally Zeltweg being situated in the foothills of the Austrian Alps – in a rural area at that – there are no traffic issues. Officials smile at you as they either wave you through, or point you in the correct direction.

What a contrast to a week ago in Le Castellet, where even if you were in the right, you were totally wrong. Both circuits hark back at least 30 years, yet the contrasts could not be more stark. True, Red Bull Ring has a motorway close by, but even so traffic flows on all access roads. The (sufficient) parking areas are clearly marked, and everything happens with an air of efficiency.


Tuck into (supplied) breakfast – typically Austrian fare: yoghurt, fruits, sliced meats, cheeses, rye bread and coffee – before walking the paddock. Crisp mountain air fills my lungs and all is good in the world of F1.

Despite F1’s “modernisation”, we’ve had a run of traditional circuits since Baku: Barcelona, Monaco, Montreal, Ricard (albeit a return), and Red Bull Ring, with Silverstone, Hockenheim, Spa-Francorchamps and Monza still to come before we hit Singapore. While Suzuka and Interlagos intersperse some “showcase” events, we could include Mexico – the layout has changed since back then, but still has a traditional feel to it.

What most have in common is they deliver top-class racing. Is it to do with topography, I wonder: most traditional circuits follow the flow of the land, as though tractor drivers were let loose and architects instructed to draw up plans based on these initial carvings, with safety standards to follow. Most super-stadiums are situated on flat land, and turn left or right depending upon the boundaries of the property.

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Start of FP1, which I watch on F1 Vision. You may have noticed that our Austrian GP coverage is brought to you by F1 Vision, a hand-held device that enables fans at the circuit to follow proceedings as though they were on the pit wall. In-ear multi-lingual commentary – circuit, or a choice of TV audio feeds – allow proceedings to be followed, while a menu of channels offers various feeds, including in-car and data.

We will publish a full review of the new, 2018-specification device soon, but if you’re planning to attend a race sometime soon, find out more about the device here.


After the FIA Friday press conference it’s time for lunch – red snapper and mash, followed by fruit salad and apple strudel – at Mercedes before the first of the interview sessions, namely Robert Kubica, fresh out of FP1 with Williams, and then it’s time to grill Fred Vasseur.

Tellingly, the Frenchman at first flatly refuses to respond aurally to questions about whether there has been an approach from Ferrari concerning Charles Leclerc’s future, only shaking his head (thrice) when asked. His eventual ‘No’ thus seems unconvincing – and after the session a journalist wonders whether his initial refusal to say a word was tactical in that no record of his response would exist, or simply a mannerism of his being under pressure.

Kubica clearly hopes to make a full-time return to an F1 cockpit, but admitted his options are slowly receding. Will we ever again see the Pole, whom Fernando Alonso rated as his equal before that horrific rally crash that almost severed his arm, on an F1 grid, I wonder. It would be a tragic waste of talent, but reality must set in soon.


Race Director Charlie Whiting explains the background to the stewards’ decision re Romain Grosjean’s “nonsense” penalty in France. Having reviewed the overhead footage, I’m convinced they handed down the correct decision – and I understand the ‘Race Watch’ process used by the stewards a whole lot better.

Traditioal Austrian fare
Traditional Austrian fare
The system lists all incidents over the past four years, and can be sorted into offence, stewards’ decision, driver, event and applicable regulation. All salient details can be accessed at a click of the mouse – and in most cases such material is shown to drivers during stewards’ enquiries. In Grosjean’s case, though, the penalty was handed down during the race, and thus he had not seen the footage – hence his confusion.


After the last of the interviews, it’s time for dinner (in the media centre ) – meat and vegetable Fleischtopf, a cross between stew and soup. I talk to Marie-Claude Beaumont, a F1 photographer, but a formidable race and rally competitor in her day – racing Corvette’s at Le Mans (“lovely car, but heavy to brake at the end of the straight”) – who also shared a Porsche with Didier Pironi (“selfish” and “crazy”) in the 24 hour classic.

Check out this interview with Marie to find out more about her.

A wonderful conversation it was, and fitting end to a really enjoyable day.

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2018 Austrian Grand Prix

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7 comments on “FIA shows how it uses ‘Race Watch’ to keep penalties consistent”

  1. Interesting and informative stuff as always. Also, interesting to know how the penalties are kept consistent. I hadn’t been aware of this system called ‘Race Watch’ before.

  2. GtisBetter (@)
    30th June 2018, 11:04

    I think leclerc has been confirmed for 2018 at Ferrari

    1. GtisBetter (@)
      30th June 2018, 11:04


  3. Hmmm………?
    I remain to be convinced fully with the FIA’s “explanation”.

    The inconsistencies with penalties in the past have definitely been controversial & very far from balanced. Fact.
    Now this?
    How can the FIA, the race stewards involved & anyone else in F1 tell me that SV’s recent 5 second pit stop delay penalty be balanced? His “racing accident” caused the knock on effect that wrecked the chances of too many other drivers.

    I’m sincerely unconvinced.

  4. You forgot Budapest

  5. Sush meerkat
    30th June 2018, 12:37

    Mr Rencken sure likes his food, the paddock diary always stars what culinary delights he’s had at each time of day at each event.

    I am in no way complaining, it adds a little extra something.

  6. Well Well Well!
    The FIA’s Steward charm offensive continues!
    Pre Qualy from SkyF1 just had a piece re Stewards.
    Clip of the stewards in their race room. Excellent & amazing technology on display & working to monitor the individual cars on track.
    Then a follow up with Austrian GP race steward, Derek Warwick.
    DW involved in 1 too many a harsh decision & very harsh penalties against Lewis Hamilton. Particularly a couple of seasons back.
    Hmm? Mr Warwick. aka an avowed & dyed in the wool Hamilton hater.
    I remain to be convinced of the FIA’s 100% impartiality & 100% fairness.

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