Formula 1 Insight

The FIA and the Stewards

Maybe they are listening, after all. The FIA has announced changes in the stewarding system for next year, just as they promised. And it seems that they have taken note of the particular aspects receiving the worst press this year, the lack of transparency and explanation in the process and the sometimes laughable unsuitability of the stewards.

Hamilton at Eau Rouge
Lewis Hamilton at Eau Rouge, Spa

Autosport has a good summary of the changes, from which it seems that the first is most obviously a response to public pressure:

A written explanation of each decision will be published on the FIA's website, rather than just the confirmations of decisions that are made public at present.

The FIA has also pledged to make available any film evidence relevant to stewards' decisions that may not have been seen by the public on both the FIA and FOM websites.

The written explanation is by far the more important of these two issues, provided that the stewards provide rather more detail and justification than Mosley's habitually dismissive comments. There have been penalties this year that have never been adequately explained, the reasons given being either highly subjective or in conflict with the FIA's existing rules.

The likely result of this will be fewer penalties, as well as more logically justified ones. When a reasoned explanation in writing has to be supplied, it is no longer possible to act without careful consideration of the facts and the rules and precedents governing events. Full marks to the FIA on this one, then.

The video evidence is less important but still a step forward for the stewarding process. We are aware that different angles of shot often show up factors not readily visible in the public broadcast but it has always been insufficient that the FIA can dismiss queries with a vague statement that the stewards had access to more visual evidence. If that is the case, why not release this evidence to support controversial decisions? Now it seems that this is exactly what the FIA will do and they should be applauded for it.

There is also provision for speeding up the decision-making process, with the proviso that some incidents may require more evidence gathering after the event. That sounds good but, judging by previous measures taken for the same reason, it remains to be seen whether it works in practice. Certainly, we need no more long delays in any penalties handed out whenever championship contenders are involved - the suspicion in such cases will always be that the officials want to see how things turn out before making decisions that might affect the championship race.

Finally, the FIA address the matter of the experience of stewards with a requirement that they have a stewards' super licence, one of the stipulations for this being that a steward must have observed at least one GP before functioning in that role. It is an improvement, yes, and takes away one of the critics' most effective points (stewards who have never seen an F1 race before), but hardly a guarantee of an understanding of the rules and regulations governing the sport. And the suggestion that ex-drivers are eligible if they obtain a super licence is a sop only, it being unlikely that any would be interested in going through the process to be deemed capable.

The FIA remains in control of selection of the stewards anyway. National governing bodies may nominate prospective stewards but it is still the FIA who will choose from these. One wonders what chance Martin Brundle would stand, were he to be nominated.

And there is nothing done about the most glaring weakness of all in the system - the choice of Max Mosley's sidekick, Alan Donnelly, as advisor to the stewards. Whether Max likes it or not, this is seen as his way to control the decision-making process and, to allay all suspicion, the FIA should have the sense to get rid of such an unnecessary position. Let there be a professional and respected chief steward appointed, as there was in the past, rather than so obviously a political appointment with influence but without accountability.

All things considered, it is a start in the right direction and we should be grateful that the FIA seem to be listening at last. No matter that it may be part of Mosley's plan to rehabilitate his image after this year's scandal - if it improves the stewarding, who cares what caused it?

And at least we know now that, if we make a big enough stink, the FIA can be induced to re-consider. Anyone for standard engines?


While this would appear to be encouraging progress, I'm still concerned about the application/interpertation of the rules.
Date Added: 06/11/2008

Mr Soap
Seen one race before hand? Surely the results of that would depend entirely on which race was seen, even more so given how inconsistent things have been recently.

Much better to have good knowledge of at least the last 3 years. One race really isn't enough.

And yes, Donnelly needs to go.
Date Added: 06/11/2008

Don: I think we have to be grateful for whatever concessions the FIA make. Yes, the rules need to be written down and made clearer but that is unlikely to happen in the near future. At least the matter of precedence might be taken into account if the stewards are more knowledgeable and professional. As I said, this is a step in the right direction.
Date Added: 06/11/2008

Mr Soap: One race is hardly enough to be able to judge anything in F1, I agree, but it is marginally better than never having seen one at all. Much remains to be improved and we can only hope that the FIA will continue along the path they have begun.
Date Added: 06/11/2008

Steven Roy
My feeling is that this initative came from Donnelly as it has PR written all over it. Max has never been keen on any form of openness. While I have been less than impressed with idea of Donnelly being parachuted in if this is his initiative then he is an improvement on Max.

I still don't expect the decisions to be significantly better at least now the FIA will either need to be more inventive or more blatant in their lies. If they are capable of claiming that Bourdais was responsible for Massa running into him they will be capable of justifying similarly unfathomable interpretations of the facts in the future.
Date Added: 06/11/2008

Nick Goodspeed
What a pile of poppycock!! Crooks and cheats have no credibility! Lip service!!!
Date Added: 07/11/2008

Well, I'm prepared to see how the new system works before condemning it. If it does not stop the bad decisions, the outcry is going to be even greater...

Now you mention it, Steven, it does seem likely that Donnelly has had much to do with the changes. I'm not so sure that's a good thing, however - makes it seem more like window dressing.
Date Added: 07/11/2008

Nick Goodspeed
Clive; Sorry for the abrupt ending. I got called away and since it is a bit of a problem, leaving unfinished comments, then trying to post them....I winged it!
I don't really think that any of these measures will curb Mosley's tendencies to lead F1 into the dark. So long as Donnelly and Mosley are at the head they will do what they want before they do what is right. Politicians are all full of promises. The ones who win fixed elections have little need to keep these promises. I'm sure, despite the questionable goings on this season, the bean counters are happy with the results. Many watching is what they wanted and it's what they got. The suggestions for change are not to save money, they are to equalize and homogenize, to try and make sure there are more seasons end like this one. Now the suggestion is to change the scoring, obviously for the same reason. By making engines that must last more races they are in a manner ensuring they will be closer to parity.

Date Added: 07/11/2008

You may well be right, Nick, but I have to hope for the best. As long as the teams remain willing to work with the present regime, we're stuck with them and have to be grateful for any concessions, however, small.

Max and his buddies are usually pretty bad at predicting the effect of rule changes so it's just possible that some of them will actually make things a little better!
Date Added: 07/11/2008

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