Russell urges return to single race director to address lack of “accountability”

2022 Austrian Grand Prix

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George Russell says that Formula 1’s current system of rotating race directors is resulting in “no accountability” with the FIA and its stewards.

The FIA as appointed two race directors for the 2022 F1 season – Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas. The previous Formula 1 race director Michael Masi was replaced after he was found not to have followed the rules in the controversial conclusion to the 2021 championship at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

However the wisdom of sharing the race director role between two people, which was done to reduce the demands placed on individuals in the position, has been questioned by drivers and team principals over the first 10 rounds of the season.

The tension between the drivers and the FIA appears to have boiled over during the Friday evening drivers meeting, with Sebastian Vettel leaving the meeting without permission after “expressing frustration” at proceedings.

Russell, who is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, called for the FIA to consider moving back to having a single race director. He said there is “no accountability” with the current race control arrangement.

“I do agree that we need to stick with one race director,” Russell said. “We need to have a bit more consistency with the stewarding.

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“We come to the following event and often the stewards from the previous event are not there. So there’s no accountability, no explanations of decisions and we ask questions and it’s difficult to get a straightforward answer because – I wouldn’t say the ‘blame’, but almost the blame – is being put on to somebody else who wasn’t there. So, yes, it’s tricky, everybody’s got their own interpretations.”

Asked about the incident involving Vettel in the drivers’ briefing, Russell said that drivers were unhappy with what they perceive as inconsistencies with how the racing rules are applies.

“I think it’s incredibly difficult for the FIA, it’s very difficult for the drivers,” Russell said.

“There’s been a lot of borderline decisions or manoeuvres this season, whether it’s defending, whether it’s track limits in a racing scenario like last week in Silverstone. We don’t want to be dishing out penalties left, right and centre, but there needs to be an element of consistency somewhere and I think we need to look at the root cause of the issues.”

Russell pointed to the variance in circuit designs and different approaches to run-off areas as a large part of why track limit problems appear to recur so regularly.

“With these track limit offences, the cause or the issue is the circuit,” Russell explained. “We’re never going to solve this issue until you solve the circuit.

“Turn four here in Austria, you will never have that issue. But you compare that with turn one here or Silverstone last week you will always have the issue.”

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2022 Austrian Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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20 comments on “Russell urges return to single race director to address lack of “accountability””

  1. Having the same director cover all events would be good for consistency.
    However, whether Wittich would be the better choice for this purpose or Freitas is another matter as both have been more or less equal, neither great nor terrible, but decently good overall.

    1. I do agree it might be help with consistency @jerejj, but it really doesn’t adress the issue, since the stewards still change and have nothing much to do with the ones at the last event. And it will mean a return to the incredible pressure on a single race director who also will have to travel the whole year and keep that pressure up all season, not sure they can even find a person to agree to that schedule, even if they wanted.

      Instead they badly need to establish a system where 1. the desicions are better argumented, more transparent and better communicated to make it easier to understand why they decided a and decide on C the next time in the same race and then XY the following event.
      And they should have something of a transfer of common knowledge/experience and common understanding of what should be the rules and how the stewarding should more or less look like between all the stewards as well as the race directors AND the drivers.
      Maybe more communication can be the solution.

      1. @bascb Indeed & communication could address issues.

      2. I think establishing some reference cases where FIA shows up a décision and its ruling might help as often nobody even knows what is allowed or not.
        Having a set of drawings or videos as reference would help fans, drivers and stewards.

        Wording is nice but leave lots of room for interpretation. A series of cases with example both sides of the limit would help.
        Benefit to that is it might be embraced by other racing series making stewarding not only more uniform in F1 but also across categories.

        1. This is spot on. The NHL discipline committee does this for suspensions and releases it to the public with reference to specific rules.

          Obviously a bit different than F1 because of the varying tracks and other factors. But it’d be a good start for clarity.

        2. Good point there @jeanrien. It defenitely needs pictures and possibly even video to make cases really clear and from many angles to make it clear cut what the idea is.

      3. In the end, leaving Masi out of the direction was just because Wolf asked for it. From a general point of view, things have not changed at all. The solution was not taking Masi out, but using the same team of judges/referees in every race, using the same criteria.

    2. Both have been bad but Wittich does not seem to care at all for consistency and his stance on racing is to turn f1 into the wrc. Perhaps Wittich has had more races to show just how inept he is.

    3. Yes, 1 director would be better, but this season it’s simply not possible. Maybe next year? Who knows.
      After binning Masi, F1 suddenly left itself in a hole. These 2 doing half jobs is the best F1 can get right now, as otherwise they’d have been passing on their mess to WEC and DTM. This solution works around the already committed schedules of Wittich and Freitas.

  2. Obviously, the wholesale cutting of corners should not be allowed as such a practice would ultimately create a completely ‘new track’.

    But why the hullabaloo about track limits where there is gravel or wall beyond?

    Just let everyone use as much of the track as they like and then it is a level playing field without any need for policing and any issue regarding inconsistency.

    1. The only clear rule that already is in place, and was maintained like it should right at the start, but seemingly lapsing already by now, is to keep the car within the track limits – i.e. go over the line and you have to give the spot you just gained back.

  3. This has to be joke right?

    1. Of course …. would anyone here lead you on .??

  4. The stewards can and should work according to the FIA code and regulations and independent of the race director. It doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter who the race director is. Unfortunately, the influence wielded by previous race directors has put the stewards under pressure because the race director was always there, had a long relation with the teams, and this gave him a lot of authority.

    The issues Russell highlights are a good example. Track limits used to be clearly defined: the white lines. Drivers had to stay within them, but this was changed in 2015 and put all the power in the hands of the race director. This can be reversed, so that the stewards – whoever they are – can do the job they’re there for: enforce FIA regulations. The race director shouldn’t get to determine which corners are and which aren’t monitored.

    That said, it always seemed to me to be the idea that Wittich would be the sole race director after WEC-veteran Freitas helped him prepare for the job in a World Championship.

  5. They need to go back to the way things used to be in that stewards only get involved when absolutely necessary.

    The more the FIA havetried to police every aspect of racecraft over the past decade, The worse things have got because we now have far less consistency and far more silly decisions that would never have been penalties or even investgated in the past.

    The over regilation we now have was always going to lead to this.

    Just leave the drivers to race and if they havea bit of contact or whatever then leave them to discuss it afterwards as it used to be before these silly constant investigations and penalties started to ruin the sport.

  6. Too many kneejerk reactions by fia. Why not just have the white line thru out the track and not some corners be the boundary. Also if required tje stewards from the previous race should serve atbthe next race also. So that in the next meeting their views can be directly given. How ever for example if theres 3 stewards then 2 should be at the next race and 1 dropped. And anew added. Thus a form of alternate stewards with a mix pf previous weeks races are always present.

  7. Sadly, the Americanization of Formula 1 is a fait to compli! Just like their antiquated constitution; it is the letter of the rules that matter, not the intention. Look what they have done to golf? Does anybody remember a track limits incident from the 20th century? Soon they’ll have the viewers judge the drivers by vote, and just doing away with race directors and stewards! And after that all the races will be held in America, where they know how to police the rules!!!

  8. I respect everyone’s right to an opinion (just as I am giving mine) however, given the various viewpoints that have been provided throughout the years on these forums, I sincerely doubt there is a solution that would make the majority happy.

    From a personal perspective (which obviously won’t go anyway to unifying these viewpoints) is that the stewarding has been quite reasonable this year. Of course with hindsight we can question some decisions, as is the case with many refereeing/umpiring decisions in multiple sports. But I think, in general, there has been more ‘no further action’ situations, that may have historically received penalties, so I think freer racing is in place.

    I do also support the track limits rules, and whilst enforcement has improved in this respect, it really needs to be 100%. If anything, where there are tracks that it is felt drivers should be allowed a little more width, then the lines should be moved accordingly. But maintaining the rule of the lines dictating the boundaries is nice and clear. Anything else is simply inviting interpretation, and therefore debate.

    I do note that some feel drivers should be able to use as much of the track as they like, but this is obviously not possible without gravel traps (or similar) in every location that divers could otherwise simply take a shortcut. Whether such disincentives should be in place at every track is another question, but I still feel some may take a gamble and scoot across a gravel trap if the act were not otherwise penalised.

    1. Agree with u 100%

  9. “With these track limit offences, the cause or the issue is the circuit,” Russell explained. “We’re never going to solve this issue until you solve the circuit.”

    The ‘issue’ could be solved by the drivers keeping their cars on the track rather than trying to gain an advantage by going outside and hoping that no-one notices.

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