McLaren boss says F1 doesn’t need permanent stewards

McLaren on the grid at the Mexico City Grand Prix

Formula 1 does not need a set panel of stewards to follow the circus in the same way as FIA race director Michael Masi does.

That’s the assessment of Andreas Seidl, who believes the current system of rotating officials serves the sport well.

Criticisms have often been levied at F1 for perceived inconsistencies in the application of the rules.

It’s been argued in some corners that the introduction of permanent stewards would resolve that issue given the group would in itself be consistent, and therefore have first-hand knowledge of previous incidents.

“I definitely don’t think so,” Andreas Seidl said when asked by Speedcafe.com if the sport needs a permanent panel of stewards.

“To be honest, when we look at all the rulings in the last years, with the way also how the different stewards have a system in place of exchanging each of the cases, the way how they look into previous cases when they do a ruling on a weekend, I don’t think we have any issue there.”

Formula 1 operates with a panel of four stewards, one of whom typically has top-flight racing experience.

Another is typically nominated by the sporting authority in each country (e.g. Motorsport Australia), and the other two from a pool of FIA ‘Super Licence’ (not the same as an F1 Super Licence) holding officials.

They are charged with applying the regulations as set out across a series of documents, from Formula 1’s own rulebook (sporting and technical) to the FIA’s own sporting codes, and a laundry list of Technical Directives which are not made available to the public.

Their role sees them sit independently to the FIA race director, though they do receive recommendations from him.

It’s then the job of the stewards to apply the rules to any alleged breach, from track limits to technical infringements, establishing the facts with a mass of data at their disposal.

However, they are limited in their decisions based on the various regulations, with little room for interpretation.

This is largely deliberate, to remove the chance of inconsistently applied rules where possible.

However, there is some degree of flexibility, as demonstrated over the Mexico City Grand Prix weekend.

At the start of the event, a number of areas were identified where drivers would be penalised for leaving the track – or should they do so, rejoin in a specific manner.

Drivers and teams were advised of those areas through the Race Director Notes, another document stewards must take into consideration for each incident they investigate.

In Mexico, that saw Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen both receive reprimands for failing to negotiate the correct way around a bollard at Turn 3 during Friday practice.

Nikita Mazepin was also reprimanded for an off-track moment at Turn 8 during Free Practice 2 when he cut behind the apex kerbs.

Some 90 minutes after Mazepin had been dealt with, a revised version of the Race Director Notes was published, with the Turn 8 reference deleted entirely.

“I think in the end, we went into Friday knowing what the rules are from the driver from the document Michael’s sending out, and that is then obviously [our] reference when it comes to what you have to do on that day,” Seidl explained.

“If there’s learnings during the day, and it gets changed for the next day, you have new rules and that’s then the base for the stewards.

“So from my point of view, that was somehow logical what happened [with Mazepin].

“And I appreciate that there’s this possibility actually to bring up then, at the end of the day, stuff that happened, and that there is the flexibility then from the race director to change things for the better.”

Following the race in Mexico, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff shared his surprise that the opening lap clash between Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo wasn’t at least investigated, let alone the Australian punished.

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