FIA sporting director Nielsen resigns at end of first year – reports

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In the round-up: Steve Nielsen, the FIA’s sporting director, has reportedly resigned from his position

The RaceFans round-up will return

The round-up will be taking a brief break over the Christmas period. There will be no round up tomorrow (25th), Tuesday or Wednesday.

The round-up will return on Thursday 28th December. If you are celebrating Christmas, have a very happy and safe weekend!

In brief

FIA sporting director Nielsen resigns – reports

Steve Nielsen, who was appointed as sporting director for the FIA in January of this year, has reportedly resigned from his role within the governing body.

The BBC reports that Nielsen, who was hired by the FIA after serving as as Formula 1’s sporting director for five years, stepped down after being unhappy with the FIA not showing a willingness to make the changes he felt were necessary to its race control operations.

Nielsen’s hiring was one of many actions taken by the governing body to address criticisms of its operations following the controversial conclusion of the 2021 Formula 1 season. Niels Wittich, who was one of two race directors appointed to replace Michael Masi as F1 race director for 2022, completed a full season as the sole race director in 2023.

Wolff wants to see “many more” titles

Despite winning eight constructors’ championship titles and seven drivers’ championships for Mercedes since joining the team in 2013, team principal Toto Wolff says he wants to see “many more” titles for the team in the future.

“We have a board in our factory which shows all the constructors’ world champions since 1958 – you have the logos, the badges for each of the years – and the table goes until 2050,” Wolff said. “There is 27 open, empty places. And I would like to look back in 20 years and see these many more Mercedes stars.

“When you’re retrospective – and hate retrospective views – but when we look back in 10 or 20 years and we consider that peak decade it was – second-first-first-first-first-first-first-first-first-third-second – when you look at it from that perspective, you kind of say ‘that was okay’.”

Tsunoda reveals “biggest mistake”

Yuki Tsunoda says his clash with Oscar Piastri at the Mexican Grand Prix was his “biggest mistake” of the 2023 season.

Tsunoda was running eighth when he collided with the McLaren driver at turn two on lap 48, dropping him eight places before he recovered to finish 12th. He admitted that he had “a couple of regrets” during the season but “especially Mexico.”

“But it’s motorsports,” he continued. “Obviously the learning what I did there was definitely my biggest mistake for the whole season and I have to learn from it. But, also, I tried it. I was P8 – if I finished P8, it still was not enough to be a P7 anyway. So I tried it at least. And I don’t have much regrets.”

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Comment of the day

With our list of top ten Formula 3 drivers of 2023, Spoutnik is not shocked by those at the top of the list…

I’m not surprised to see both A14 drivers at the top of this ranking. Bortoleto’s charge has been really great to watch, he’s been very solid and consistent. Pepe Marti has been more up and down but still super fast on his days.

Looking at drivers making the jump to F2, I feel it is a bit premature for some drivers. But next year’s F2 is an entirely new car, with powersteering and more in line with either F3 and F1 so maybe the gap isn’t that big anymore.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday for today to Andrew, Richpea, Wasif1, Willian Ceolin and Alex Tunnicliffe, happy birthday for the 25th to Louise.1987 and Urvaksh, happy birthday for the 26th to Michael S and happy birthday for the 27th to to Scott Joslin, Super_Swede_96, Dean Mckinnon and Diceman!

On this day in motorsport

  • 24th: Born today in 1941: Howden Ganley, who raced for BRM, Frank Williams and March in the seventies. His career was cut short when he was injured in a crash while driving for his final team, Maki, at the Nurburgring, following suspension failure.
  • 25th: Born today in 1943: Wilson Fittipaldi, who raced in F1 for three years before handing his Copersucar drive to younger brother Emerson
  • 26th: Born today in 1958: Adrian Newey
  • 27th: Five-times Formula 1 race starter Andre Pilette died on this day in 1993. His best result was fifth place in the 1954 Belgian Grand Prix, driving a Gordini

The round-up will return on December 28th.

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...

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27 comments on “FIA sporting director Nielsen resigns at end of first year – reports”

  1. Wow, I was squarely looking at Neilson as to who could have stepped in during the Sainz Vegas penalty decision according to the ISC. His position was supposed to have been responsible for ensuring the code was adhered to during race weekends according to the code.

    Sounds like his hands were tied the whole time if he’s leaving citing those reasons publicly.

    Happy Holidays!

    1. I was squarely looking at Neilson as to who could have stepped in during the Sainz Vegas penalty decision according to the ISC.

      Unfortunately for Sainz, the rules are what they are, and no-one including Ferrari wanted them changed in any way when others fell foul of faults in the track on previous occasions.
      Maybe Ferrari will now support the case for changing that aspect if it’s raised.

      1. I’ve been convinced by others that there was room to suspend the penalty, but like you rightly note, it’s probably something even Ferrari would rather keep a lid on so as to avoid a constant discussion in the future.

      2. Yes, the rules are what they are, and the rules explicitly state that the sport should be fair which is what Nielson was responsible for. If that rule decided the championship the outcry would be as bad as ’21 and that FIA don’t want to do anything about it, and similar unfairness at the hands of the stewards regularly shows precisely that commercial interests are placed above sporting far too often.

        Good on him for refusing to stand by and watch the sport be regularly disregarded under his watch.

        1. Yes, the rules are what they are, and the rules explicitly state that the sport should be fair which is what Nielson was responsible for.

          What I was pointing out, possibly not strongly enough, is that it was equally unfair on the previous drivers that suffered damage in other seasons.
          Other teams, including Ferrari, didn’t care then, why should it suddenly be considered fair to take compensatory action when Ferrari are on the receiving end?

          1. I’d say because of the grossness providing utmost clarity. It has nothing to do with Ferrari being the recipient, but a potential podium finisher getting a 10 place penalty for a mistake completely by the organisers is just crazy. No such unfairness has been leveled previously and even then, something being done wrong shouldn’t set a precedent for future wrongdoing.

            Either way, if you ignore this one issue, you still have the FIA refusing to revise its race control procedures which have so many times now have been proven inadequate. Inability to self-reflect and improve is so detrimental. It’s the culture of the infamous Balestre line that seems unshakable.

          2. “I’d say because of the grossness providing utmost clarity. It has nothing to do with Ferrari being the recipient, but a potential podium finisher getting a 10 place penalty for a mistake completely by the organisers is just crazy.”

            So it only applies when a potential podium-finisher gets effected. What about when Barrichello or Grosjean or Button or Montoya or … Had the exact same issue?
            Barrichello actually retired from the race with a heavy crash because of it. Tbh, that’s even more unfair than what Sainz had to deal with.

            Same with Montoya in 2005. You know what Montoya said back in the day? “That’s racing”. It is what it is, bad things happen every now and then. It’s not like it was a unique occurence and it opens a rabbithole of “circumstances because of the circuit”.

          3. If Sainz’ car couldn’t be repaired that’s a completely different situation to what happened where a rule was applied that was intended for a completely different purpose. Of course its impossible to rule out bad luck.

            Sainz wasn’t punished by bad luck, he was punished by the stewards because they say they had no choice but to follow a document which is consistently interpreted differently anyway.

      3. Some other teams did care then, but thought there were solutions less dramatic than needing to specifically write in a regulation requiring the FIA to compensate. After all, this should be a very rare event.

        However, that was before the budget cap and consequent limits as to what teams have available turned things from “awkward but affordable replacement” to “this will trigger a further fine at best, would have caused the loss of a session had the FIA followed its other regulations to the letter, and a DNS followed by a suspension from the championship at worst”. It was also before the FIA broke a regulation in order to get the cars on track in the first place (in theory, there couldn’t have been the second inspection that Las Vegas required to be cleared as a track).

        Given the safety implications, a court hearing cannot be definitively ruled out.

  2. & That biggest mistake was easily avoidable by not being so hasty in his overtaking attempt, but no one’s perfect.

    Nice artwork in MTC.

    Finally, Merry Christmas to all.

    1. & That biggest mistake was easily avoidable by not being so hasty in his overtaking attempt, but no one’s perfect

      I did say at the time that without that mistake, it would have been a rather good performance. People seemed to be focussing on imagined highlights in Ricciardo’s performance, though.
      I think they made the wrong selection, and of their available drivers Tsunoda & Lawson was what they should have taken.

      1. SteveP, Tsunoda’s performance in the Mexican GP is somewhat overhyped as well, mainly because people seem to assume he must have passed quite a lot of other drivers on track to be able to restart in 8th place after the red flag period.

        When you look at the timing data, that isn’t what happened – Tsunoda only passed one other driver on track, and the rest of the places he’d made up were as a result of other drivers either retiring from the race or having pitted in the handful of laps just before the race was red flagged.

        If Tsunoda had actually made a pit stop during green flag conditions, just as every other driver ahead of him had done so, he’d have come back out in 16th place.

  3. To all the RaceFans team, have a lovely three day break and thank you for all the articles over the last year :)

    and indeed all the best to everyone over the Christmas period :)

  4. I just wanted to say to everyone at Racefans: thank you for another year of high quality, engaging motorsport journalism! Hope you all have a great break over the holiday season. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, and a very happy new year to you all!

  5. F1 Quiz: Can you remember what happened in the 2023 season?
    Do I want to remember?!

    1. It’s a pretty odd quiz, where you just enter numbers and they’re matched with the right answer. I got one of the numbers wrong, that that turned out to be right for another question than intended! There are also two questions with the same answer – which seems a bit of an editorial oversight.

      I think Autosport usually has a big Christmas quiz as well, which is a bit more in depth and spans all of (interntional) motorsport.

  6. I’ve really liked Palmer and the whole F1 TV team so much they’ve replaced Brundle for me for the first full season.

    However, the Las Vegas propaganda has gotten out of hand. It was an okay race because everyone expected it to be terrible.

    It’s very, very clear that everyone on F1 TV has to follow a script on terms of what they’re allowed to say. “… and I’m not saying that because I have to” has to be one of the most repeated phrases after the LV weekend.

    Back to you, Martin.

    1. I felt exactly the same way about the first Miami race.
      It was painfully obvious that the commentators were very restricted and couldn’t even make a joke about features like the fake marina etc.
      But this is what you get when anything – sports or otherwise – is owned and controlled by a “For Profit Only” company like liberty :(

    2. Palmer is a good voice on the team, and he’s usually quite level headed. I like his post-race bits, too.

      Unfortunately the lead commentator Alex Jacques is rather obnoxious and not very internationally-minded for such a global platform as F1TV supposedly is, and he’d probably be better off at Sky UK.

      Hopefully they add more guest commentators and have them on more frequently too, as it’s quite easy to create a more diverse team that way. Having Hinchcliffe on for some of the American races was good, and more of that can only be a good thing.

      1. Yeah, agreed about the internationally minded part, I’ve often wondered how or why the commentators are allowed to pepper in so much British specific references or idioms.

      2. My understanding was that the F1TV audio literally was Sky UK – perhaps he has also forgotten?

        1. Having said that, Alex Jacques provides lead commentary for Channel 4, so if F1TV’s taking that instead, everything makes more sense. Especially since James Hinchcliffe was a co-commentator on the later American rounds on Channel 4, and it would not be reasonable for him to be doing two separate commentaries on the same race. If F1TV’s effectively copying another channel’s commentary instead of having its own commentary team, it can’t really complain if the way the commentators speak is tailored primarily for the originally-intended audience.

          (Also, I misclicked the report button on my own comment. Probably should get more sleep…)

          1. Alex Jacques, Palmer, Hinch, DC are F1TV’s own commentary team. It’s probably C4 that gets the commentary track from F1TV.

  7. Coventry Climax
    24th December 2023, 11:35

    Shouldn’t come as a surprise, F1’s sporting director resigning, with nothing sporting to direct anymore.
    The job is now renamed to ‘F1 show director’.
    Given the FiA’s trend to shut up everyone, the new word in the job title applies to both F1 and the director.
    They’ll find some puppet to do it anyway.

    For these weeks and the coming year(s):

    May you not find yourself, and all things you value, on the receiving end of violence or greed.
    May you have freedom of speech, of expression as to who you are and what you stand for.
    May you introspect and assess your own role in it all.

    1. Given the apparent lack of interest in show, even “F1 show director” wouldn’t lead to as much work as might initially be believed.

  8. Prep for Masi return?

  9. I got so excited for a second cause I thought it was Niels Wittich leaving at first glance with the picture and the name.

Comments are closed.