Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Circuit of the Americas, 2021

Should Formula 1 have the same stewards at every race?

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The latest controversial decision over Formula 1’s racing rules has prompted fresh discussion over whether those in charge of policing the sport are making consistent decisions.

Among those who see room for improvement, some believe having the same stewards in charge at every event would be a step in the right direction. At present the stewards for each weekend, who rule on matters ranging from driving infringements to technical matters and more besides, are drawn from pools of multiple chairpersons, driver stewards and others.

But according to Lewis Hamilton, FIA F1 race director Michael Masi recently told drivers similar incidents may be handled differently by different stewards. This appears to leave room for inconsistency.

Has the time come for F1 to appoint permanent stewards who accompany the series from venue to venue? Would this change be more likely to produce decisions which are viewed as being consistent and fair?

For

Sharing the responsibility for such vital decisions between groups of people ensures that different views are applied from weekend to weekend. However closely all involved in taking the decisions study past incidents, variations are inevitable when those taking the calls change from event to event.

Introducing permanent stewards would ensure every decision is taken by those who’ve made similar calls over the course of the championships. Instances of similar decisions attracting widely differing reactions would therefore be less frequent.

There are other potential benefits from having the same stewards at every race weekend, such as reducing the length of time it takes for decisions to be made, which has been a concern in recent races.

Against

There’s no certainty that having permanent stewards would have changed how many of the controversial decisions which have attracted attention in recent races were handled.

For example, Max Verstappen is believed to have avoided a penalty for allegedly forcing Hamilton wide at Interlagos because there was asphalt on the exit of the corner, an interpretation of the rules which surprised, among others, Lando Norris, who was penalised for a similar incident involving Sergio Perez in Austria where there happened to be gravel on the outside of the turn.

This suggests the cause of what some consider ‘inconsistent’ decisions is not that different stewards made the calls, but that the standard being applied is unclear, not obvious or disputed.

I say

The call for permanent stewards has always felt to me like one of those ‘the grass is always greener’ debates. I agree there’s a problem and I think a change is needed, but while I see the logic of the argument for permanent stewards I’m not entirely convinced it will successfully address the problem, or at least fully solve it.

I have some sympathy for the stewards, especially in the current circumstances, where the championship is coming down to the final races and the stakes are sky-high in a way they haven’t been for years. Nonetheless, I shared the surprise many have expressed here about how some recent decisions were handled.

One argument against permanent stewards is that it would increase the possibility that decisions could regularly be taken to the advantage or disadvantage of a particular driver or team. I suspect such overt bias would actually be easier to spot if the same people were making the calls week-in, week-out, compared to the current situation. But I doubt this happening to begin with anyway.

That leads me to think permanent stewards might be an idea worth trying, but I’m not convinced it’s the whole solution. Giving coherent explanations and fair justifications for what drivers may and may not do would surely do more to convince everyone that the same racing rules are being applied to all competitors. Particularly when it comes to the vexed matter of drivers exploiting track limits on asphalt run-off areas, a matter F1 has done a poor job of policing fairly this year and previously.



You say

Do you agree F1 should have permanent stewards? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Do you agree F1 should have permanent stewards?

  • Strongly agree (38%)
  • Slightly agree (26%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (11%)
  • Slightly disagree (13%)
  • Strongly disagree (12%)
  • No opinion (0%)

Total Voters: 213

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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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  • 85 comments on “Should Formula 1 have the same stewards at every race?”

    1. As with many things in life, what is required I believe is a compromise. If we had 3 groups of permanent stewards that met each other to compare notes, but did say 7-8 races each at least the drivers could expect a little more consistency. At present things are too random, and a better structure would be most welcome. Agreed that one set really would be ‘grass is greener’ as mentioned in the article, as it could set up bias for an entire season. Of course simply briefing the stewards properly as to what is acceptable and not at the start of the season may also produce better results than currently.

      1. Then they should have some criteria within which they work.
        At the moment drivers are being penalised for not being able to do the impossible, such as changing a line when going through a corner at max velocity whilst already ahead.
        The rules have banned brake testing, they should also police its polar twin, Acceleration Testing or attempted ramming.
        Many other naunces exist in driver and car behaviour that can be worked on such that Stewards are not going with their mood more personal preferences but making use of a more mathematical or logical process of evaluating culpability.

      2. I agree, but with a slight difference. The same group of stewards should be at similar tracks. For example, one group for street circuits. One group for high speed like Spa, Monza, Austria, etc. One group for high downforce tracks like Hungary. That way circuits with similar characteristics which would be approached similarly by the teams (and Pirelli) will also be policed similarly by the same group of stewards.
        That would make it easier to find stewards as well as they wouldnt need to do a full season, but groups at a time.

        There should also be greater visibility. Every decision should have a justification provided. Maybe not immediately if its during a race, but the following week so fans have an idea on why a decision was made (or not).

    2. this is a good idea
      they can start by ensuring that the stewards who were in Brazil 2021 never take part in any stewarding event again.They seemed to be particularly vexed against one team and driver all weekend..

      1. RandomMallard (@)
        27th November 2021, 13:37

        @spiderman I seem to recollect, though I may be wrong, it was actually the same driver (Hamilton I presume) whose unfair treatment (and to an extent his team) under the previous permanent panel of stewards was cited as one of the reasons for introducing a rotating panel. Especially Belgium 2008, and the general perceived pro-Ferrari and anti-McLaren bias of the time (whether this perception was correct is a different matter, but it generally created enough of a storm for the FIA to try and change something).

        In Brazil, I do definitely disagree with the decision not to penalise Max for forcing both of them off track, but I don’t think you can complain at the stewards for the DSQ. The car failed the test. End of. If you have an issue with that, take it up with the scrutineers and the rules, not the stewards. Once the scrutineering team come to the stewards with evidence that a car has failed a test, it is becomes almost procedural for a DSQ to be given. I can’t remember the last time a car failed a test and didn’t get a DSQ.

        1. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
          27th November 2021, 14:18

          @randommallard re: scrutineering in Brazil. My understanding is that the car initially complied with the test and the stewards accept that the failure was caused by a malfunctioning part. I don’t think it’s reasonable to penalise a part for failing the test after it has malfunctioned. Had there been suspicions that the malfunction was deliberate or that Mercedes had gained an advantage then it might have been justifiable, but neither of these things were true: the wing still complied at the middle and on the right, and on the left it failed by a minuscule 0.2mm, literally about a hairsbreadth! Mercedes should have been allowed to replace the part without penalty, especially given the failure was obvious: a couple of screws had come loose!

          1. RandomMallard (@)
            27th November 2021, 16:14

            @slightlycrusty My understanding is that car was legal after initial scrutineering at the start of the weekend, and after quali the flap complied with the test when the DRS was closed, when the gap has to be between 10mm and 15mm, but one section of the outer part of the wing failed when the DRS was open. I have complete belief that Mercedes didn’t built an illegal car, but once it fails the test, there is pretty much no other option than a DSQ. The rules even make it very clear that “it shall be no defence to claim that no performance advantage was obtained”.

            I definitely believe the explanation that it was a malfunction, although in the past that has also not been a defence. For example, in Hungary, AM claimed (and later managed to provide evidence) there was a fuel leak that meant the scruntineers couldn’t extract the required amount of fuel from the tank (note: the issue AM had isn’t the necessarily the fact they ran out of fuel or under-fueled the car, that wouldn’t directly be illegal, it’s the fact that the FIA tests require 1 litre to make sure the fuel adheres to the regulations).

            In terms of replacing the wing, they would have been allowed to had they picked up on the issue themselves during Quali. During Quali and on the grid, the teams don’t need written permission to change parts under parc ferme, as long as the teams have a reasonable belief that permission would be granted (hence why RB have been able to change their wings in Quali/on the grid). The stewards said in their report at Brazil that Merc would have been totally allowed to tighten those bolts if they had wanted to in the garage. However, the car that finishes Quali is the one that is scrutineered and as the stewards noted, ” In the end, the regulations are clear and at the moment of the conformity check, the car did not comply.”

            I don’t think there’s anything the stewards did wrong or should have done better in this incident. If anything needs changing, it’s the rules in this scenario, but as they are at the moment, the stewards applied the rules as per normal.

            1. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
              27th November 2021, 17:52

              @randommallard thanks for explaining it. Although the rules could do with tweaking in this area, it does sound like the stewards acted fairly.

            2. @randommallard Teams have always been allowed to repair parts. If they repair the part and it passes the test then it’s ok.

              Of course if the test is that you need to bring a certain amount of fuel, that will not be brought back by fixing a leak in the fuel system. That’s not a relevant comparison.

              Red Bull have replaced rear wings in parc ferme as well. Would those wings have passes scrutineering. Doubtful.

            3. RandomMallard (@)
              1st December 2021, 9:34

              @f10saurus That is correct. You are allowed to repair it during Qualifying, or on the grid, but not between Qualifying and it going to scrutineering. The FIA confirmed that they would have been allowed to repair the wing had they noticed it was broken during the session. To use the fuel comparison again, you can’t fill a car up with fuel between the end of Qualifying and the start of scrutineering to ensure you have the required 1 litre. You can refill it during the session all you want, but not between the end of the session and it going to scrutineering.

              Re: RB’s rear wings. They’re changing these either during Qualifying, when they’re allowed to, or in the grid, when they’re allowed to. And the question isn’t “would they pass scrutineering”, but “did they pass scrutineering?”. I think Brazil has highlighted that the scrutineering procedure is not perfect, but the stewards job is to enforce the rules, not create the rules (although they’re not doing a great job with either)

            4. RandomMallard (@)
              1st December 2021, 9:35

              Sorry I misspelled it @f1osaurus

            5. @randommallard Sorry, but that is just nonsense. They ARE allowed to repair broken parts if it doesn’t pass scrutineering. Mercedes indicated they have done so before.

              Repairing a leaky fuel system does not bring back lost fuel. That example is simply not relevant. But yeah the extent to which they allowed Aston Martin to recover that fuel shows how lenient they are. The rules clearly state that the fuel needs to be pumped up from the car. Aston Martin claimed the pump must be broken and they were allowed to repair the pump and then even to go beyond that and retreieve the fuel whicever way possible.

              If anything that fuel example shows how incredible lenient the stewards normally are to compensate for broken parts.

              The actual reason the stewards refused the repair is because they didn’t see any obvious damage. Which is also bs of course since you cannot always see it. And then there were broken screws so there actually was visible damage.

              It’s simply absurd to fail a car on scrutineering of a broken part. They NEVER did this before. And no, missing fuel is not a broken part that can be repaired.

            6. RandomMallard (@)
              1st December 2021, 17:13

              @f1osaurus

              The rules clearly state that the fuel needs to be pumped up from the car

              The rules clearly state that the rear wing opening cannot be more than 85mm.

              Aston Martin claimed the pump must be broken and they were allowed to repair the pump and then even to go beyond that and retreieve the fuel whicever way possible.

              No, they weren’t allowed to do they at the race. They were allowed to do that after the race, once the DSQ had already been handed out, and used it in their request for a review, which failed. In the same way Merc were allowed to inspect the wing after the stewards had made their decision.

              Also, this is not an unheard of situation. Raikkonen was excluded from a qualifying session in 2013 after his floor failed a deflection test, with a key quote being “Lotus argued that floor damage caused by track kerbing had led to the failure, but their explanation was not accepted as an excuse for the car being unable to pass the test.”

              The question normally once a car fails a test is ‘why did it fail the test’. If there’s an obvious reason, such as a crash or collision caught on camera, that is usually sufficient. In the case of floor damage (like the ones above), running over a kerb is sometimes a justifiable reason (Grosjean in Hungary 2013, Kvyat in Monaco 2016), sometimes it isn’t. In the case of Mercedes, it is clear what went wrong (something broke). What isn’t clear is why it broke. This is where this isn’t quite correct:

              The actual reason the stewards refused the repair is because they didn’t see any obvious damage.

              According to the stewards’ report, the reason they weren’t allowed to change it is because they “could not extend this argument [crash damage] to cover parts that were found out of conformity in post session checks with no obvious reason in evidence other than considering normal running at this Event.” I.e. Mercedes couldn’t give a reason as to why the part broke. This suggests that either the car wasn’t assembled correctly (and it’s the responsibility of the teams to build a car to the regulations), or the wing couldn’t withstand the forces it experiences at full speed.

              I’m not arguing that this is how the rules should be, because there clearly are some problems with them. I’m simply arguing that the steward’s followed the rules as they are currently written, even if that’s not how they should be written.

            7. @randommallard Just stop it. Aston Martin was given way more attempts to get the fuel out than allowed even before the DSQ. And then indeed afterwards they still were allowed to get the fuel out. A clear demonstration of the leniency given by the stewards

              I’m not arguing that this is how the rules should be

              No you are arguing the rules are not as they actually are. Just stop making stuff to begin with up and also now trying to finally educate yourself after the fact of your your dumb remarks and then twisting things to pretend your dumb remarks were still correct.

              Your comments were simply wrong. Broken parts are normally allowed to be repaired and see if they then pass scrutineering. This has always been the case.

        2. @randommallard back in 2008, Alan Donnelly’s involvement in the stewards panel was the main focus of criticism about stewarding, particularly in the wake of the Belgian GP (given he chaired the stewards panel). Many felt he shouldn’t have held the role given he had a financial conflict of interest – Alan Donnelly ran the lobbying firm Sovereign Strategy, which had contracts with Ferrari (as well as having contracts with the FIA and FOM).

          1. RandomMallard (@)
            27th November 2021, 17:53

            Ah yes thanks anon. I seemed to recollect there was something very odd and unpopular in the stewarding of the time. I believe it was the reforms at the start of the Todt era that led to Donnelly’s removal.

            1. Very odd. There is so much bias there, I think the FIA are following in the lines of FIFA. They need to be removed and replaced.

            2. @randommallard it does also highlight that, although there are those asking whether a permanent stewards body could be subject to bias or corruption, the issue with Donnelly, and the criticism against Masi, are both aimed at figures who are not themselves stewards.

              Donnelly, at the time, was the chair of the stewards panel, whilst Masi is predominantly the race director, although he had, and I think may still have, a role in training the stewards. Whilst some might counter that having rotating panels reduces the potential for a persistent bias in one direction, corruption and so on, it doesn’t necessarily do so when the most frequent point of criticism has been those in the fixed roles in the chain above them.

          2. He actually took over the entire stewarding job. There were no other stewards involved in those decisions where he penalized Hamilton for just about anything he could think of.

    3. Roberto Giacometti
      27th November 2021, 9:03

      Not only should there be the same panel of stewards, there should also be the same panel of marshalls at every race. With all the money floating around in formula one, and the importance and prestige of winning championships and millions in prize money based on points scored, and all the corporate skullduggery going on , and nobody lifting a finger unless millions of dollars are involved, it is quite an absolute FARCE that the whole show would basically not function without a bunch of people VOLUNTEERING their time over the duration of the event.
      Don’t get me wrong – nothing against the marshalls – they have done a great job since year dot , BUT , this is Formula One – the creme de la creme, so if eveyone else is performing professionally , and getting compensated professionally, then the WHOLE SHOW NEEDS TO BE PROFESSIONAL!
      Before all the purists start saying -“ but wait ,” , NO. , volunteer marshalls can still stay in all the other motorsports , but F1 has long outgrown that model years ago.
      Let’s get serious – it is common sense after all !

      1. I know a couple volunteer stewards in Montreal, they love doing what they do, as they get a great chance to be part of the action for “free”, and they are treated and trained very well.

        Having said that, a permanent marshalling crew augmented by local volunteers would be good by me.

        1. RandomMallard (@)
          27th November 2021, 21:15

          @nanotech That could be a good compromise. Have a set of maybe 3 dozen permanent marshalls that are part of the F1 circus, and they take a position of lead marshall at each marshalling post, and can advise “junior”/local marhsalls on what to do in certain situations (obviously withstanding anything that requires emergency attention). But I don’t think we should be getting rid of local volunteers completely

    4. I am against the idea. Permanent stewards opens greater room for corruption. I think the permancy of the stewards is a bit of a red herring. In many sports the officials are rotated and it’s not a problem. If anything the whole process should be more transparent or publicised. Why not have the panel of stewards decisions highlighted in the broadcasts, that way the incosistencies can be more easily recognised. A post race press conference with the stewards would be amazing.

      Whiting was starting to be more transparent about why certain decisions were made towards the end of his time, you could agree or disagree but the reasoning was clear. Despite opening up things like message broadcasts to the race director, the behind the scenes decision making is very opaque.

      1. I am also against as the current debate is more about the guidelines than the decision itself. If we show 3 different videos of incident to various people, the decision regarding ruling might differ greatly because there is so much room for interpretation and so little ground for consistency. I like the idea of creating a few reference cases that would be available to stewards and drivers, or even rule of thumbs (ie. if the outside car is more than half way alongside before the breaking zone, it has the right for track space. If the front wheels of the car in the inside are ahead of the front wheel of the outside car before the breaking zone, he has the right to reclaim racing line).

        It won’t prevent someone braking late and overtaking on the outside or the inside, but might provide some ground for stewards that will have the same references to judge. Some cases might remain on the line and whatever the panel or the rules, we won’t reach a perfect consistency in decision (maybe AI based?). Guidelines and reference cases are for me the best step forward we can have at this time.

        Fixed stewards, I see that more as risk than an advantage in the highly politized world of F1.

      2. Both of you give good arguments against a permanent stewards and I agree with you there @jeanrien, @skipgamer

        When the rules are unclear, one cannot expect consistent ruling. And when there IS a lot of room for interpretation in those guidelines it is even more important to have a transparent and thoroughly argumented (with footage and telemetry included as much as possible) relatively shortly after those verdicts.

    5. I do not see this as an either/or situation.
      Surely there are a number of stewards, so some could be permanent and some could be on a group of races basis.
      I also think that the principles should be written down and clear to all.
      Doing away with invitations to break the rules (example: it’s faster to cut the corner because it is asphalt) will avoid the need for many of them.

      1. @juliangoddard In the past they used to have a permanent steward along with the ‘randoms’ & everyone always complained that the rest of the stewards were been influenced by the permanent member who was pushing decisions based on what the FIA wanted.

        That is part of what started the belief (Which I always felt wasn’t totally accurate) that the stewards favoured Ferrari & always went against McLaren.

        Issue with that is that once a perception is created it’s hard to get rid of so even when decisions are made fairly you still have cries of bias because of that perception. That is & will always be an issue.

    6. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
      27th November 2021, 9:28

      F1 doesn’t need permanent stewards, it needs professional stewards. In every other professional sport the referees and umpires are highly trained professionals. They pass examinations and they have performance reviews.

      F1 stewarding is weird, three guys: a local steward for no justifiable reason, an ex-F1 driver who may or may not be interested in the rulebook and the third fellow selected by the FIA. All amateurs. There is no quality control, there is no record of their individual inputs to decisions and therefore there can be no performance reviews. The race director can issue his edicts (“crowding is strictly prohibited”) and the stewards can just ignore what he says. This is hopeless.

      Permanent stewards is a complete red herring, what’s lacking is training and accountability.

      1. @slightlycrusty I agree that this would be a better solution. 4-5 sets of professional stewards who attend the same training sessions, seminars and debriefs should in theory provide a more consistent approach.

        In my view the biggest issue is inconsistency, not necessarily whether the decision is correct.

      2. I agree. A group of professional stewards who receive the same training and attend the same debriefs would be a far better solution. With press releases explaining what came out of the post race debrief so we can see if the decisions that were made have been agreed to and “ratified” or if they feel mistakes were made and what will be the decision in future races.

    7. I voted for neither agree or disagre as I believe the issue lies elsewhere.

      I think FIA should take one step back and not only review but have their sporting regulations for F1 built from scratch, which should be as simple, clear, unambiguous, consequent and coherent as possible, should incorporate previously unwritten but accepted but differently interpreted rules which could be now explicitly referenced. Obviously drivers and teams are always finding ways to push the boudaries and exploit grey areas in the regulations, and that’s just part of the game. I think stewards should be merely law enforcers, nothing more, nothing less, and if the “law” (the regulations, rules, code) has the above mentioned qualities, it should leave no room for consideration or different interpretation by any steward appointed.

    8. No, they just need to be impartial and consistent.

      1. To be consistent they need to have a great knowledge about the sport and of previous rulings of other stewards. That would require professionalism and education, for any hope of this to work. You can’t gather random people and have this.

        1. Ah, but you can if the rules are clear.
          Right now F1 has stewards choosing whether to apply rules the way they were interpreted at various other events, which were all different. Should they go with the ‘Austria’ interpretation, or the ‘Silverstone’ interpretation, or perhaps the ‘Imola’ interpretation, or maybe some other one, or maybe even make up their own?

          They should remove any and every ‘unofficially agreed interpretation’ and have an actual written one that everyone knows about before the race starts. Before the season starts would be even better.
          Maybe even write it in a document and call it the “Sporting Regulations” – since they are supposed to be what controls the sporting aspect of F1….

    9. Consistency seems to be the key word… They have the same safety car driver – why not the same panel of stewards?
      They could trail it for one season?

      1. This! It would be easy enough to give it a try for a season, and show a willingness to do things better. However, the idea might not be controversial enough for F1 to pursue. ;)

    10. The stewards should give written justification for all formal decisions to penalise or to decide no investigation is necessary. This would be after the race ends.. Such justifications would always quote previous decisions as precedents or guides, that would help the push for more consistency and accountability…. and stewards do need to be accountable for their actions or failure to act.

      One other simple change to the sporting regulations would be useful, change the clause on the review of decisions to a review being automatic if new evidence is presented or was available but not used by the stewards in making their decisions. If the stewards do no believe it to be new or unused evidence they must justify that in writing.

      Lastly there must be clarity on who stewards the stewards and how?

      1. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
        27th November 2021, 10:53

        +1 And the review should be untaken by a different panel of stewards. I was staggered by the indignant tone taken by the stewards in their response to Mercedes’ polite request for a review – that should be a normal and uncontroversial part of the process.

    11. *They could trial it for one season?

    12. It’s not about the stewards, it’s about the rules – they keep changing.
      The rules are often unclear, they are inconsistently interpreted and they are inconsistently applied – regardless of who sits in the stewards chairs.
      Inconsistent track limits and all the hassles they create are just the tip of the iceberg.

      F1 needs to sort its rule book out before it starts ‘fixing’ the problem of who is applying this mess, or not.

      1. Additionally, the FIA (and the FIA alone) should be deciding the rules and their interpretation, and not entertaining input from any teams, drivers, viewers or media organisations within the current season.
        Save any changes for next year.

        This is such an ‘F1’ thing.

      2. There is something we agree on :)

        1. I think we agree on many things regarding F1 @roger-ayles.
          We do often have different ideas on what to do with F1’s problems, though… :)

    13. I agree with Keith on this. There is no evidence that having permanent stewards will result in more consistent decisons.
      I think the problems lie more in the guidelines for stewards. There are often no guidelines at all or they are set in a manner that allow multiple interpretations. That’s almost impossible to work with!

      The general decision-making process might be an additional issue. A couple of years ago Alex Wurz, who has worked as driver steward multiple times in the past, revealed why he refuses to be part of the stewards’ panel anymore: the driver steward often gets outvoted by the other stewards, even in cases when the call is obvious for the driver steward

      1. Not to mention the racing instructions from race control constantly change, which is certainly not going to make it easier to be consistent @srga91

        1. And that too after the weekend has already started!

    14. F1 is the premier open wheel racing series. Those administering it should be of the highest quality and ability. While I’m not convinced paying lots gets you a better result, the simple fact is generally expensive lawyers do get better results.

    15. I think they need to improve the criteria by which the stewards are chosen. Dump the local steward and the ex racing driver, and select them for objectivity and ability to process and be guided by data. It’s pretty obvious at the moment that, for example, the rules change at the Red Bull Ring or if there’s a lot of screaming, and the idea that decisions aren’t driven by outcome is a complete joke.

      Have a pool of stewards and let teams vote them out if they’re not up to being objective. And drop this ‘let them race’ thing which is simply shifting the rules and blurring the lines.

    16. Whatever model of steward composition is gone for, this lottery system of what is investigated and penalised and why must stop. All decisions should be transparent and clearly explained with reference to the rules and precedents used. This should include explaining exactly why no investigation was deemed necessary if actions have been noted and then not investigated. I like the idea of groups of stewards who officiate for several races. I also think there should be an appeal panel (created from members across these groups) which can look into decisions made if they are queried. Which again would have to fully explain their findings.

    17. For me the low point in stewarding involved Mika Salo at the Russian GP. Leaving aside the merit of the 2 5-second in-race penalties for an incident prior to the race (for which Leclerc had received no penalty at Spa: inconsistencies again), the worst aspect was the leaking of the penalties to the Finnish press before official word had been given. (“Niki Juusela, a commentator with Finnish channel C More, told viewers 10 minutes before the stewards’ verdict was announced that Hamilton would receive 10 seconds of penalties and four points on his super-licence.”) Leaked by whom? One of the stewards, clearly. That was a serious issue in itself. Then we had Salo’s reaction to Hamilton’s subsequent criticism of the stewarding decision, “Hamilton is full of ****” Both these aspects were deeply unprofessional, as well as indicating potential bias, and showed the danger of rotating stewards. You just can’t act in the way Salo did in the capacity of judge and jury. Whatever your opinion or perceived provocation, you have to remain professional and independent. His incapacity to do so was kind of shocking, revealing just how bad stewards may actually be. Who chooses them?

    18. Patrick Chapman
      27th November 2021, 11:42

      If the same panel of stewards rule on every incident then we will probably get more consistent decisions.
      The stewards don’t need to travel from race to race. After all, the stewards don’t watch the race per se they are watching the monitors so they can do that online from any country in the world.
      The stewards need a data base of incidents to refer to in order to be consistent.
      The rule book needs to be clear and unambiguous.
      In short, we need more professional stewards who will act in a professional manner and who will be accountable for their decisions.
      The stewards should explain their decisions when asked.
      If a team/driver wants to query a stewards decision or appeal a decision then the appeal should be done by a different panel of experts who are totally familiar with the rule book.

    19. I’m not against permanent stewards but I also don’t necessarily believe it would improve things.

      I look to Indycar as an example. They have had permanent stewards for probably 20 years or more yet you still see inconsistencies, You still see silly decisions made & you still see cries from fans as well as teams/drivers about favouritism.

      The trend in Indycar has tended to be that a new team comes in & everyone talks about how fair they are & how great a job they are doing. Yet they will eventually made a bad call, Maybe an unpopular call, Some sort of inconsistent call or appear to be showing bias towards/against a team or driver & eventually calls will be made for there replacement.

      You sort of saw similar in F1. Everyone always called for race drivers to be included on the stewards panel as they would bring racing experience & knowledge which those who haven’t ever raced wouldn’t have. Yet that hasn’t really changed any of the complaints people had beforehand.

    20. Oh yeah, why not? Hill, Brundle and Button/Coulthard should be enough.

    21. Rotating permanant stewards I think is the right balance. Lesser than now but not the exact same every race for a whole season.

    22. I not convinced the stewards are the problem, I feel the problem rests more with the directives and guide lines issued from Liberty via Massi. The problem is the direction Liberty are taking F1.

      1. Indeed. The first thing to scrutinize is the race director’s note that keeps changing after the weekend has already started.

    23. No, imagine the season long bias that would come with it. In todays F1, where politics are apparently of equal value as the actual racing this would be a huge liability. Have a poule of people, but train them better. Let them get a degree, exam etc. Make sure each and every-one is or has been a racing instructor from a recognised school etc.

    24. I think there should be a head steward who is at every race and is involved in the decisions. You can then have other stewards at different races but they are guided by the permanent one.

      I think having a variety of opinions is good but there needs to be someone who can then take their findings following an incident and apply penalties consistently as per the rules.

    25. There needs to be permanent Chief Steward with final decision-making authority over the assisting stewards. With 20+ race seasons, maybe there could be two or maximum three of these Chief Stewards, who would rotate during the season.

    26. RandomMallard (@)
      27th November 2021, 13:25

      This is obviously a very difficult and sensitive situation, and I think the FIA have to be very careful not to make a knee-jerk reaction to one or two incidents.

      The problem, in my opinion, is not the rotation of stewards. Other sports rotate officials every game and can, most of the time, get decisions consistent and correct. I think the problem faced here is, like others have said above, a lack of professional training for the stewards. I think there are two solutions to this:

      1. Create a selective group of properly trained and qualified stewards. Local stewards and driver stewards are still perfectly fine, as long as they’re properly prepared, trained and qualified. I know other sports have a hierarchy system for officiating, such as football, where you can work your way up through promotion from grassroots football all the way through to the Premier League Select Group 1 or FIFA International Referees List. Maybe a similar system could be imposed here, inviting well-experienced, consistent, well-performing officials up various ranks (with adequate training at each rank), with F1 or FIA World Circuit Championships (or similar) being the top category for example.

      2. In the UK, we have Magistrates Courts that deal with most criminal and minor cases. The magistrates who preside and pass judgement in these cases are usually unpaid members of the public. They have some training on how to deal with procedure etc. but do not themselves know the ins and outs of the law they enforce. That job goes to the legal advisor (or Justice’s Clerk), whose role mainly involves advising the magistrates on what the law actually states, the range of penalties available, and past precedent for similar cases, but they generally don’t themselves make a judgement. Could this system also work in racing? If the FIA are so adamant on having a rotating panel of less qualified stewards, surely it would make sense to have a very highly qualified individual with full knowledge of the regulations and past precedent to advise them?

      1. @randommallard both of these are the best ideas I’ve read in these comments.

    27. Interesting to note that Bernie E & Charlie W hardly ever faffed about with decisions.
      The rules, both Technical & Sporting cover the whole nine yards of F1.
      Why just why aren’t those rules applied, enforced & penalised equally for any transgression?
      The current indecision, indefinite time taken & various “Open to interpretation” decisions. Makes a complete mockery of the rules, the drivers, the teams & most of all of us the fans.
      I sincerely hope I’m wrong.
      But I’m seeing just more & more Circus Stunts being played out, for the LibFlix “entertainment” rubbish.

    28. I do not agree to a permanent steward for every race. That discourages diversity and enhances the risk of personal bias.

    29. We don’t need permanent stewards.

      We do need
      1. the referral to be published, or all correspondence or radio transcripts from the race director or delegates to be issued.
      2. the transcript of the decision whether to investigate, and if not, why not
      3. if an investigation is necessary, publish the transcript and the precedents
      4. a timeous, summary decision notice if full disclosure will take time. All decisions MUST be made within the race or a summary delay notice issued including the reasoning. All decisions must be made on the day of the referral. No overnight delays
      5. Netflix must be kept out of the process. We neither want nor need artificial drama injected to boost ratings

      Separately, all Race Director’s communications throughout the weekend are to be published to ensure no outside interference with him, or by him.

      The FIA are far too opaque to the fans but far to cosy with the commercial rights holder. If you want to stop any appearance of collusion or artifice in your decisions, make the process transparent.

      1. I agree with all you’ve posted, Marvin The Martian.

        I’d add the rules/regulations need to be looked at and any ambiguous sections re-written to be watertight. The rules/regulations have been bent so many times this season

    30. No.

      Formula 1 should have clear rules, and a office for reviewing calls like every other sport.

    31. I don’t think it matters. The stewards in Brazil penalized drivers. Masi hinted days later that the stewards might be feeling the pressure of the championship. Any steward needs to understand that not calling a penalty is also deciding the championship. The top 2 drivers driving way off limits obviously needed an investigation, penalty maybe or maybe not.

    32. Coventry Climax
      27th November 2021, 14:45

      Whenever there’s two or more underlying issues to a problem, that problem can not be resolved by adressing just one of the issues.
      The issues here are inconsistency in the ruling, room for interpretation within the rules, a race director (and a tyre manufacturer, for that matter) that’s justifying decisions after the fact, and a party that mingles in the whole process for causes of ‘the show’.

      If the interpretation would consistently be the same, with no other changes, that would trigger ‘lawsuits’ from teams that read the rules differently and feel they are shortchanged, cheated. That might solve something from the ‘show’ perspective, but would not solve the entire problem.
      Cleaning up the rules to leave less room for interpretation would sort more effect, as the judges have less room to play. Those may however still be incompetent, and biased towards one team, driver and/or manufacturer. Also, it would leave that third (and fourth) party still at the wheel to mingle with both the rules and the rulers for said ‘show’ causes. Lastly, there’s still no system of independent accountability in place, so we’d still be stuck with the after the fact justification talks.

      I think we can agree that LM should have zero say in this matter to start with.
      I also think the rules should be written waterproof, by a party that has zero interest in any team and/or driver.
      There should be an accountability system in place, for the jurers to comply with.
      Then, if you want consistent, unbiased ruling, have it done by well trained, competent, fully independent people, or…. have a computer do the ruling based solely on the input of sensors. Pinnacle of motorsports, right?

      All in all that doesn’t sound too hard, now does it?

      I can understand the grounds for this article, but I feel left with the choice of shooting or hanging, while there’s so many more facets to dealing with crime.

    33. This is about money. The stewards are fine. There was no way Liberty was going to let their ordained champion be penalized at Brazil. He would have to have gone even further than Senna to have the stewards do anything.

      1. RandomMallard (@)
        27th November 2021, 21:25

        @darryn I’m still yet to see any evidence whatsoever that Liberty are influencing the decisions here. I can definitely see reasons why people might think that, and definitely think they may have influenced race control (red flags, SCs etc, though that too may be down to other factors – Whiting’s race control were a major part of the shift away from red flags and towards SCs anyway), but nothing to see the stewards themselves. There are a multitude of different factors at play and I find it incredibly unlikely, without any firm evidence, that Liberty are influencing the stewards’ decisions (especially given the relatively short time frame involved in Brazil). And for the record I completely feel Max should have been penalised. I just don’t think Liberty are the reason he didn’t

    34. I disagree. Same stewards also opens the door to tunnelvision, overcompensation or even pressure from teams. For the same reason we don’t see a similar referee at football matches. Plus who would these stewards be? You can’t have too many Brits/Italians etc and you can’t have people who had a history with a team, especially when they are stewards for the entire year. Every (big) team would want to have someone in, and the people with experience, like Liuzzi, Salo etc, have a link with teams and/or have been outspoken about drivers in the past.

      I think it’s a bad idea. You want fresh eyes every race.

    35. Yes, why not? They don’t replace the safety car driver every weekend, do they?

      1. RandomMallard (@)
        27th November 2021, 21:27

        @svend1 I don’t really think that’s the best comparison, as the SC isn’t really involved in officiating decisions, he just follows instructions. Like at a football game, the teams/stadium may have their own medical staff for each match, but the referees rotate around from team to team each matchday

    36. Refs decisions in all sports are to a degree subjective while following rule books. The problem with f1 is that the decisions often appear to be entirely random. Definitely having a stable of trained, experienced stewards, just like refs in other sports, could go some way to mitigating that randomness. Do f1 stewards need to have completed x amount of time stewarding lower formulas? They should.

    37. I disagree.

      These might be the keywords – “the standard being applied is unclear, not obvious or disputed.” That said, I honestly believe that the stewards are doing their best and that they do not favour any drivers or teams. I think that we should accept the fact that there will always be room for interpretation in certain cases.

      I do not think that it would be wise to create a powerful group of ‘super-stewards’ – constant does not equal better and we might as well end up with constantly bad decisions.

    38. Should F1 race every weekend on the same circuit?

      Apparently polls show the popular opinion is that F1 should not be a world championship, but perhaps some local completely standardized law school. What will be the next step of making it “fairer” – identical cars, same 20 drivers probably all clonings of SHAM as soon as genetics is capable to deliver this?

      The whole point of having a versatile experience is seeing the difference between good and better, bad and worse.

    39. Insofar as the Verstappen/Hamilton Brazil incident has launched this discussion, both the issues of permanent stewards and rulebook consistency are red herrings. The problem is not that the stewards or the rules are inconsistent (in this case at least) but rather that these stewards made an awful blunder is not even bothering to investigate a crystal clear penalty, and then Masi and the FIA compounded the issue by refusing to accept that a mistake was made. If you commit to the conclusion is that Verstappen’s move was legal, then you somehow need to explain that. The chosen solution in this case appears to be doubling down on inconsistency and just passing it off as part of the sport, to the dismay of many.

      A better, cleaner solution would be for the FIA to just fess up, accept that a mistake was made and that this was and should’ve been a penalty, apologize, but say that the sport isn’t going to be dragged into the quagmire of all race results being conditional for a week while every potential missed penalty is fully investigated. That’s how every sport works. Things are missed, bad calls happen, but life goes on. That’s fine. But it is just embarrassing for the sport to refuse to admit a mistake and insist that, somehow, this bad call was actually a good call. That’s when debates like this begin, and it’s an awful look for a sport looking to endear itself to new audiences.

    40. Pirro did both monaco 2016 and canada 2018, so no point in keeping the same stewards. This website claims the stewards did not give Verstappen a penalty because there was asphalt on the outside. Bogus excuse for a made up claim…

    41. I think maybe part of the group could be permanent and part could be rotating? This would give us the consistency but also protect from consistent bias. Maybe 2 out of 5 is permanent? At least 2 so they can help to recall previous incidents. 5 so number of stewards is odd so no tie when voting and 2 out of 5 to protect against consistent bias.

    42. …BUT ,irrelevant of opinions, it is clear that the consensus of teams & drivers is that the lack of consistency is the underlying factor. Actually it is THE problem.
      I’ve heard before of a suggestion of a stewards panel, for the season. Yes, there will be odd occasions when a steward will be absent, but the general make-up of the panel will remain. It should be investigated, at least.
      Also, what to me is 1000% clear is the inclusion of a ‘driver’ steward has FAILED, miserably. This current debacle is a prime example. Mindful of the expertise of most of the D/Ss, without being in the room one can not be sure of the true reason, but clearly t’ain’t working.”
      .”

      This was an excerpt from my recent comment [ref: Debate over racing ethics after Interlagos left ‘all parties not happy’ – Seidl]

      As for different panels for street circuits etc. No-o-o-o!!!
      Why doesn’t the FIA inject some commonsense into the whole saga by re-inventing the wheel –
      the white lines ARE the track limits.

    43. Strongly agree. A lower risk (in theory at least) for different outcomes in similar situations.

    44. They tried that in 2008 with Alan Donnely and it was a disaster. Although in that case an extra problem was that he alone was calling the shots. Maybe with three (supposedly) independent stewards it would be less of an issue, but still. And in that time Mosly hated Ron Dennis so much that it is not inconceivable that he appointed Donnely on purpose.

      Verstappen is also complaining when Garry Connelly is one of the stewards and he actually gets a penalty for his misbehaving. Most notable for the 2017 COTA penalty when Verstappen overtook Raikkonen by cutting the corner. Plus recently when Verstappen got a penalty for pushing on in a lost position until he landed on top of Hamilton in Monza.

    45. I think the current system, which I believe is a pool of permanent stewards who have received training, along with “guest” driver stewards, isn’t a bad start.

      What’s missing (as far as I know), is a review process after each season that reviews the major, or controversial, decisions over the season, preferably by a group consisting of one or two team principals, a small selection of drivers, Masi, some stewards, and a few others.

      For example, pushing a driver off-track was handled very differently in Austria and Brazil– Why? Can the rules for forcing a driver off-track be clarified? Most importantly, can a book of guidelines (which I hope exists already) be created, and that book made public?

      Similarly, it used to be the white line was the edge of the track– everywhere. There were one or two exceptions (Ascari Variante at Monza, for example), but otherwise, stay on the track or risk a penalty. That needs to come back. Needing a track map and three copies of the Race Director’s Event Notes for each race weekend is just daft.

    46. Shocking News!
      Vitantonio Liuzzi to be the steward at Saudi Arabia GP! And that’s after what happened in Brazilian GP with Liuzzi being the steward there…

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