Masi defends stewards after F1 penalty criticism

Shortly after Lewis Hamilton made contact with Max Verstappen. Picture: Fox Sports

FIA race director Michael Masi has come to the defence of stewards at the Formula 1 British Grand Prix following criticism of the penalty handed down to Lewis Hamilton.

The Mercedes driver was involved in an opening lap tangle with Max Verstappen which saw the Dutchman crash heavily.

Handed a 10-second penalty for his role in the clash, Hamilton recovered to win the race, prompting suggestions the penalty was insufficient.

Formula 1’s judicial process sees stewards investigate incidents and assign penalties where they establish a breach of the rules has taken place.

The panel operates independently of race control, which can refer items to the group, and reviews the body of evidence before deciding an outcome.

Depending on the incident, different penalty options are available based on the severity.

In an incident such as that between Hamilton and Verstappen, those options range from no action to five-, and 10-second holds at a pit stop (or time added post-race should they not stop again), to a stop-go penalty (where no work can be performed on the car).

Masi explained that, when deciding the severity of the breach, officials only consider the incident itself and not its aftermath – in this instance, the fact Verstappen crashed out while Hamilton continued.

“I think one of the big parts that’s been a mainstay for many, many years,” he said.

“This came through discussions, prior to my time, between all of the teams, the FIA, and F1, and the team principals were all quite adamant that you should not consider the consequences in an incident.

“So, when they judge an incident, they judge the incident itself and the merits of the incident, not what happens afterwards as a consequence.

“That’s been something that the stewards have done for many years and have been advised to do from top down – and I’m talking team involvement, and so forth.

“That’s the way that the stewards judge it because [if they] start taking consequences into account, there’s so many variables, rather than judging the incident itself on its merits.”

The Australian also addressed concerns surrounding the severity of the penalty dished out to Hamilton.

“I think if you look at it on that basis you’ll never find a penalty that will address an imbalance like that,” he reasoned.

“If you look at it in that particular circumstance – so that is why going back a few years the teams, or team principals, made a clear distinction that they didn’t want consequences taken into account they wanted it based on the incident itself.

“I completely understand that perspective and I think that is a general held view across all stewarding, to not look at consequences for that purpose.”

The former Supercars deputy race director also stated his belief that stewards should not have to explain their reasoning in detail to the public, suggesting the situation is more complex than football’s controversial VAR.

Much like cricket, that system allows fans to see the same replays as officials.

“I think that you’ve got a lot of TV analysts out there, with a lot of very experienced former drivers out there, that will put a perspective forward,” Masi said.

“The stewards look at absolutely everything that they’ve got available and unlike a VAR process that’s sort of done and dusted within 30 seconds, sometimes maybe a minute maximum, the stewards are very much are told that you take the time that you need to analyse any possible element of any incident that occurs.

“So I don’t see it from that point of view,” he added.

“I think the stewards need to remain as an independent judiciary and I don’t think they should, in their capacity, have any pressures.

“They should take their time to analyse everything based on its merits.”

Victory in the British Grand Prix has moved Hamilton within eight points of Verstappen at the top of the drivers’ championship, while the constructors’ battle has closed to four points in Red Bull’s favour.

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