Nico Hulkenberg, Logan Sargeant, Monaco, 2023

F1 cannot continue with “layman” stewards says Steiner after Hulkenberg penalty

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Haas team principal Guenther Steiner called for a permanent panel of stewards in Formula 1 after disagreeing with a penalty Nico Hulkenberg received during the Monaco Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg was penalised five seconds by the stewards after they deemed him responsible for a collision on the opening lap of the race.

The Haas driver dived to the inside of Logan Sargeant at Mirabeau, locked up his left-front wheel and appeared to make contact with both the Williams and possibly the rear of Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin in the process. However, in their decision document published during the race, the stewards did not specify which driver Hulkenberg was deemed to have collided with and stated the incident took place at “turn six”, the Fairmont hairpin.

Speaking to media including RaceFans, Steiner said he did not understand why Hulkenberg had been penalised.

“I’d like to find out [why], because there’s nobody can explain it to me,” Steiner said. “I tried to look at pictures and I think there was no collision.

“The decision, for me, I still don’t understand it. I was told in the video you can see a collision. I looked at numerous pictures and I cannot see a collision. And somebody wants to tell me there is a collision, he has difficulty to. There is no collision.

“How can you be sure of a collision and if you don’t know if it is one or not, what is it then? Innocent until proven guilty. Not guilty until I prove innocent, in my opinion. That is how a law works, in my opinion.”

Steiner says he cannot understand why Hulkenberg did not receive a black-and-white warning flag rather than a penalty after Stroll was shown the warning flag for making minor contact with Hulkenberg’s team mate Kevin Magnussen at Anthony Noghes later in the race. He also pointed out other incidents this season where drivers have collided more egregiously with rivals and who have not been peanlised, such as when Nyck de Vries hit Lando Norris into the first corner of the Miami Grand Prix.

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“Lap one, we get the penalty for what I think is not a collision,” Steiner said. “There are other people running into each other during the race, they get the black-and-white flag. So I think it’s very inconsistent.

“And then we look at the accident in Miami between de Vries and Norris in lap one, that was no collision? It’s like, ‘guys’…”

Formula 1 operates with a panel of four stewards nominated by the FIA. While all stewards have significant experience in motorsport and are regularly former drivers themselves – with many of them serving on multiple stewards panels during a season – the composition changes for each grand prix weekend.

Steiner says the uncertainty over Hulkenberg’s penalty shows that F1 should move to a permanent panel of stewards.

“We have just to go back to ‘do we need a different system for stewards?’,” Steiner said. “Because every professional sport has got professionals being referees and stuff like this.

“F1 is one of the biggest sports in the world and we still have laymans deciding on the fate of people which invest millions in their careers. And it’s always a discussion because there’s no consistency. Again, I don’t want to blame any particular person on this, but if you’re not all there all the time…

“This is like a job [but] it’s not even a job, because in a job you could get sacked, because you get paid. And if you do a bad job, you get sacked. You cannot get sacked because you don’t get paid. I think we need to step it up.”

He wants F1 to follow the example of other series.

“I think it’s now time, we’ve been discussing this since years and years, and we always go back to this – every other sport has professional referees.

“American racing, NASCAR, IndyCar – how many times you hear problems with the stewards or with the race directors’ decision? Very rarely. But they are doing it completely different. There is full-time people working there.”

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

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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12 comments on “F1 cannot continue with “layman” stewards says Steiner after Hulkenberg penalty”

  1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    2nd June 2023, 12:59

    I haven’t seen a replay but I also thought Hulkenberg’s penalty was harsh. It was game over in terms of his race and I don’t think he did anything wrong there.

    Then again, the stewards penalized Hamilton at Silverstone in 2021 and every replay suggested that he didn’t put a foot wrong and Verstappen hit Lewis after overturning into the corner.

    1. Silverstone was a black flag for Lewis he did not received because it was his home race.

    2. @freelittlebirds:
      Most people disagree with you on the second part though. Verstappen did not turn in on him

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        2nd June 2023, 15:19

        Do you see how much space Verstappen has on the left? Good video. You also see a twitch from Verstappen where he corrects at the end when he realizes that he miscalculated but it’s too late. I’m surprised people have trouble with such a clear driving error from Max.

        You can also see that Hamilton stuck to his line and made no attempt to stick the car in Max’s path at all. Based on this video, the stewards should have been fined for giving a completely unwarranted penalty to the other driver.

        1. @freelittlebirds

          Do you see how much space Verstappen has on the left? Good video

          The guy on the outside should hug the outside line when there’s a car with his nose on the inside, great logic. With that logic we can safely assume that Lewis was at fault for his crash with Kimk at Silverstone 2018, an incident Lewis viewed so unjust that he accused Kimi of doing it deliberately with his “interesting tactics” comment.

          Then again, it’s quite amusing to see how Lewis still managed to lose the 2021 title with the objectively faster car (see Bottas vs Perez) despite Max being robbed of 75 points in Silverstone, Hungary and Baku. But as long as you have those 7 points in Abu Dhabi to make a song and dance about; I suppose it does not matter.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            3rd June 2023, 13:45

            @kingshark The guy on the outside has to keep track of the guy on the inside especially when the guy on the inside is giving him a huge part of the track. That’s racing 101. When racing, the guy on the inside will always try to take a bit more space on the track. In this case, Verstappen pushed Hamilton to the edge prior to the corner so he should have expected a wider turn which is Hamilton’s right regardless.

            Now had Hamilton changed course to push the car into Verstappen as we’ve seen with drivers in the past that’s a different question altogether. But Hamilton stayed on the same line, didn’t even try to go wide. All Verstappen had to do was race with him as opposed to cut in like he did.

            He clearly realized he made a mistake but it was too late.

          2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            3rd June 2023, 14:26


            with the objectively faster car (see Bottas vs Perez)

            Totally agree! The Mercedes was quicker but it wasn’t just the Mercedes as Hamilton had trouble overtaking McLarens, Ferraris, and even Alpines. So to be fair to Red Bull, I think those 3 constructors were also faster than Red Bull in 2021, otherwise the Mercs would have made quick work out of them.

            I think in 2021 the Red Bull was just a tad faster than Williams and Haas.

            Perez and Verstappen are clearly the fastest drivers right now and that’s clear because in 2021 Perez was able to overtake cars like PacMan in the ridiculously slow and unstable Red Bull joking “who’s next?” and the fact that they can do this with such a horrible car is a testament to their monstrous driving abilities.

          3. In this case, Verstappen pushed Hamilton to the edge prior to the corner so he should have expected a wider turn

            Incorrect, he didn’t push anyone. Verstappen made his defensive move before Hamilton made his attacking one. Verstappen moved to the middle of the track and Hamilton chose to “dummy” and dive down the inside, then outbraked himself and hit Verstappen

            which is Hamilton’s right regardless.

            Wrong, unless you are willing to admit that Hamilton was at fault for Silverstone 2008?

            Totally agree! The Mercedes was quicker but it wasn’t just the Mercedes as Hamilton had trouble overtaking McLarens, Ferraris, and even Alpines.

            Hamilton being stuck behind much slower cars but then pulling seconds on them when he gets in clean air sounds like a driver problem to me.

            Then again, when Bottas outqualifies Perez 16-6, outraces him 12-4 and beats him by 36 points it’s obvious which car is quicker.

  2. But the penalty came from the contact with Sargeant at Mirabeau & De Vries-Norris in Miami was indeed a physical collision.

  3. The article isn’t really about the penalty, it’s about the need for a single set of professional stewards that preside over every race. Couldn’t agree more. Especially in this day and age where they would not be required to travel and be physically present at all of the venues.

    1. Unofortunately, I do not believe that changing the stewards would help, given the mess of a regulatory system they’re expected to enforce.

      1. @alianora-la-canta yes but in the current system there are new stewards every race who cannot possibly learn all the regulations. Do you not agree that having a single set of stewards who know and practice the regulations would be better?

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