FIA applying lessons from football and rugby to improve F1’s race direction

2022 F1 season

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The FIA is turning to sports such as football and rugby to learn lessons which can be applied to Formula 1 race direction.

The motorsport governing body announced its programme to improve race direction at F1 events has completed its first phase. The Race Direction Development Programme was launched by FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem in an effort to improve how F1 races are run following the mishandling of last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Michael Masi lost his job as F1’s race director after the sport’s governing body determined he had failed to follow its rules in organising a last-lap restart during 2021’s title-deciding race. The outcome of the world championship changed following the restart as Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton to clinch the title.

Information supplied by the FIA’s Race Operations Centre (ROC) in Geneva was used in a review of recent grands prix with officials who attended them. This innovation, likened to football’s Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, was introduced after an investigation into the events of the Abu Dhabi GP identified failures in the decision-making process.

Race start, Interlagos, 2022
Poll: Rate the race: 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix
The FIA has also held discussions with representatives of the international sports organisations for football and rugby to take lessons from their refereeing procedures. Representatives of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, a supplier of football referees, will visit this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“The Race Direction Development Programme is designed to improve our race direction operations as part of our ongoing efforts to bring rigour and best practice to the governance of the sport,” said Ben Sulayem. “It also builds on the implementation of the ROC to support our race operations.

“The programme will also help us identify emerging talent so we can grow our pool of race directors, stewards and officials for the future.”

F1’s race direction procedures encountered further problems at last weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix. During a Safety Car period one of the three drivers who should have been allowed to rejoin the lead lap, Yuki Tsunoda, was overlooked. A similar error was central to the controversial outcome of last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

An FIA spokesperson said “all of the systems functioned correctly and according to the regulations,” and “the unusual situation arose as a result of the idiosyncrasies of the specific circuit and scenario”.

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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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20 comments on “FIA applying lessons from football and rugby to improve F1’s race direction”

  1. I think this statement could be applied to every race and every SC. How about we made a mistake and we learned from it.

    “the unusual situation arose as a result of the idiosyncrasies of the specific circuit and scenario”.

  2. Bias, Corruption & incompetence?

    1. Exactly what I was thinking

    2. VAR is also terrible in football and the video refs are running rugby. F1 can probably teach those sports some things – not that there isn’t serious scope for improvement in F1.

  3. I believe F1 practically had VAR decades before football. On the other hand, they lack professional referees that would also be placed under scrutiny and have their own rating system. There should be competition for that job, for which people should be properly educated first. I also there should be transcripts containing everything they say during ruling, which drivers/teams could access in case of making complaints.

    1. Excellent comment. I’ve been looking into how officials are selected in sports. In many sports, even at the highest levels, like F1 is supposed to be, officials are often volunteers who are chosen for their loyalty to the local organization, length of involvement with it, and political favors they have done.

  4. Seems odd to me they wouldn’t first look to other motorsport categories before drawing inspiration from other sports entirely

    1. That sounds sensible, mind you cynics would say this is why it wasn’t done. Going to other motorsport categories would give the FIA a much more relevant range of options.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        15th November 2022, 19:35

        They’re not going to other motorsport categories because they market themselves as being the pinnacle of motorsport. It’s the reason why they can’t call the sprint race a sprint race – because that already exists in F2. It’s the reason why they underscore Indycar with the superlicence points – they need to make it look vastly inferior to F1….

        They’ll go and speak to rugby and football (even though there is next to nothing for them to learn there) because that’s ok – they’re still the best motorsports category but they’re talking to other “world leading” sports organisations….

        1. Indycar is vastly inferior to F1 by the metrics that matter to the people in charge. Manufacturer involvement is extremely limited, most teams are what would d be classed as Am-team in sportscars. The reach of Indycar is small, even in the United States & Canada where it has all its races. Even in downtown Nashville Indycar only claimed 110,000 spectators; a quarter of what the recent Mexico GP counted.

          Even on YouTube, the Highlights for the Indycar championship finale at Laguna Seca has less than 100k views a full two months after it was held. Meanwhile, the Highlights for the Brazilian GP held two days ago already has 4,4 million views. Indycar is a small budget regional series. And for the FIA’s purposes it has little relevance to F1 because it shares no tracks, no FIA involvement, etc. (Despite this, Indycar is the only series aside from F2 where the FIA gives instant-superlicense points to the champion).

          All of that doesn’t mean it’s bad racing. It’s definitely not. Indycar races are often more fun than anything F1 puts up. But that’s only a small part of a racing series. If Ecclestone can be credited with anything, it’s making F1 fans. Most F1 viewers probably watch no other motorsport, which is totally fine, but it does explain why F1 is such a massive commercial success while much more competitive (and arguably fun) series struggle to fill the start-finish grandstand.

        2. Right!

  5. Thank god they went to see prime examples of transparency and competence !

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      15th November 2022, 19:48

      It’s utterly pointless talking to either… Both have very different issues to deal with. In neither of these sports could you let the game continue for 30 minutes whilst you make your decision. Also in rugby and football, the majority of fouls result in the other team getting the ball. It doesn’t drastically affect the match and the match continues as it was. In F1, you either destroy someone’s race or you start adding time penalties which make the race confusing to follow.

      The only thing they can learn from each other is that when you overcomplicate rules, things start to go wrong. Unfortunately, the rules for F1 are always going to be complex but they need to be simplified as much as possible. Every specific line should be looked at and a decision made over whether it’s necessary, whether it can be simplified and whether it’s duplicated or contradicted somewhere else.

  6. During a Safety Car period one of the three drivers who should have been allowed to rejoin the lead lap, Yuki Tsunoda, was overlooked. A similar error was central to the controversial outcome of last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

    That statement isn’t accurate.
    Most of the teams pointed out that ALL cars should unlap, and Masi specifically countered the info supplied by the teams who were pointing out the correct procedure.
    That’s not overlooking, that’s wilfully ignoring, the rules.
    We can ignore his reasons for deciding to ignore the rules, otherwise this comment section is going to expand massively.

    Tsunoda probably was overlooked, the lack of direct contact with Race Control these days probably contributed to that not getting sorted out. Not that it mattered greatly as he was so far back he could well have been closer to the Mexican finish line.

    1. Not accurate? Not even close.

      Tsunoda pitted behind the safety car and, technically, unlapped himself. This triggered the FIAs new system. He came out back in the pack, a lap down again.

      AD ’21 was almost as bad as the FIA’S subsequent (mis)handling of it.

      SC unlapping should be consigned to history. Just restart as is.

      1. M, totally agree that SC unlapping has no place in a Grand Prix. I don’t know what the logic behind it ever was. You can be leading the GP by 30 seconds, see a safety car wipe out the advantage, and as if that isn’t bad enough, all the backmarkers that you have so laborously overtaken on track get waved past so that your competitors are right back on your tail again. All I can imagine is that Bernie thought it would be better for TV, to artificially close up the leaders every so often to make it look competitive.

  7. Well, they are getting close to as many penalties per race as many fouls are given in a football match…

    Time penalties are by far the worst disciplinary measures ever introduced in F1. And they act like it’s completely normal that multiple drivers are given time penalties every single race. And we are constantly counting: Oh he is 3rd but he has a 5-second penalty so he either breaks away by 5 seconds or finishes 4th, 5th etc. Ridiculous.

  8. Has not worked, it keeps getting worse.

  9. FIA – FIFA and all other great sports instututions are corrupt and will do anything for the money to keep coming in. Just look at were we are racing and who are the bigest sponsors. And learning from a footbal is so wrong, nothing good to find in FIFA.

  10. FART !

    (Fair auto racing technology). Just what’s needed.

    Another layer of admin and nobodies stamping their authority on the pinnacle of gobbledygook.

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