In the same way Michael Masi sometimes took another line to his immediate predecessor Charlie Whiting, so new FIA race directors Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas have followed had their very own interpretation of the regulations, one which hasnt always gelled with that previously understood by drivers and teams.
There’s been much frustration on the list of drivers this season, a lot of whom agreed that Masi was performing a decent job ahead of being kicked out in February in the wake of the Abu Dhabi controversy.
This year they need to figure out how to work with not only one new race director but two, with Wittich and Freitas taking turns in the primary role, or as deputy. Generally they become a team, although WEC duties imply that Freitas isnt present at all of the races.
Inevitably there were questions about consistency, not only in accordance with past years but additionally between your two current officials, who’ve both been very keen to check out the rule book by the letter. The fuss about drivers wearing jewellery was just one single exemplory case of how they approach things.
These frustration has generally been kept nowadays, however in Austria Max Verstappen made his views clear.
I don’t believe necessarily this will depend using one race director, the planet champion said about consistency. I believe it’s more about dealing with the drivers rather than just maintaining your stance and just being stubborn.
You want to ensure it is better for everybody and it’s nothing like we’re fighting for ourselves.
We’ve good conversations between your drivers and by the end of your day, pretty much, of all things we agree. Needless to say, everyone has their very own opinions about certain things.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, in the Sprint race Press Conference
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Finally weekends French GP and at the behest of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, Freitas and Wittich took a look back at some recent incidents at the Friday evening drivers briefing, showing them from various camera angles, and inviting opinion such as whether a penalty must have been applied by the stewards.
The type of viewed were the clashes at the prior race in Austria between George Russell and Sergio Perez, and between Alex Albon and Sebastian Vettel. The initial earned a penalty however the second didnt, and therefore they designed for interesting case studies.
Most present agreed that Russell was responsible, and there is also strong backing for a penalty for Albon, even though some split opinions reflected the truth that officials dont have a straightforward job.
Some unintended humour was taken to the proceedings when attention considered the final lap incident in Montreal, when Fernando Alonso was penalised for moving more often than once before Valtteri Bottas. Alonso had cited the sanction as unfair in subsequent briefings, and in France it had been shown for several his colleagues from the cameras of both cars, and an overhead viewpoint.
Apparently Alonsos energetic weaving was so unsubtle that there is laughter round the room, and only the Spaniard and his Alpine team mate Esteban Ocon didnt concur that it deserved a penalty
As is normally the case at the drivers briefing the French GP stewards, the four men who ultimately apply any sanctions, were also present. None were mixed up in Austrian GP collision decisions, although chairman Gerd Ennser was working for the Alonso case in Canada.
This is not the very first time that past incidents have already been looked at at length in a briefing it just happened often under Whiting and Masi nonetheless it was a novelty for 2022.
Its also worth noting that Wittich and Freitas have already been kept well from journalists by the FIA, a primary reaction to Abu Dhabi and an effort to avoid providing them with the profile that Masi enjoyed.
Bernd Maylander, Safety Car Driver, Eduardo Freitas, Race Director, FIA
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
What that does mean is that drivers and teams no more get any extra FIA insight about incidents via the media in the times after every race.
In today’s tense environment the co-operation of the brand new race directors in France was appreciated by the drivers.
GPDA director George Russell explained: “I believe we all desire to sit back together, look at these incidents together, get yourself a tiny view from the drivers, try to understand the thinking about the stewards so we are able to all type of come on exactly the same page.
“Ultimately, that’s what most of us want. And most of us want that consistency, but we have to know how the stewards way of thinking is in to the incidents, plus they need to know how we feel aswell. I think it had been constructive, and we probably have to have more of it.”
Russell was involved with one the case studies chosen, so he previously a direct fascination with that which was discussed.
“To the letter of regulations, they followed the regulations, he said of his Austrian penalty. “And I was in the incorrect, but sometimes you have to consider it in a case-by-case basis.
“And when there is a car externally, he’s got the clean line, climate, and turns in and the driver inside offers nowhere to go, even though he’s ahead, you’re going make contact.
“It’s similar to a football tackle, you can’t just provide a this is one way you need to tackle, this is simply not the way you tackle. Many people are always slightly different. And you need to give that racing sense.”
Albon, who escaped penalty in Austria but nonetheless apologised to Vettel when planning on taking him out, spoke up in the meeting.
“I didn’t say I was responsible, he said. I explained why, what the stewards said, because I believe no-one in the area understood why I didn’t get yourself a penalty, and just why George got one. THEREFORE I explained the reasoning, why the stewards said it.
Albon agreed that the video review was a good exercise.
“I believe firstly it demonstrates it’s not so easy for them,” he said. “We realize that it’s no easy job for the FIA, but it’s more about us understanding why for instance was George given a penalty and I wasn’t, and how do we understand how the stewards police it? So us drivers may also understand how to fight in combat. It had been more about this.”
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Alonso, who hasn’t been slow to criticise officialdom when handed a penalty, also appreciated the chance for a debate.
“I believe it really is something to be able to improve things also to show us some incidents and just why they provide penalties and just why not,” he said.
“I believe it really is for the nice of everyone, attempting to get to know their approach.
“It must be seen within the next events, since it might have a double effect, since when you visit a video, and that has been a penalty, then we shall have it inside our mind maybe [in a race] also it was a similar and just why they didnt provide a penalty.
“So we’re able to have a number of videos to examine that could be interesting. At the very least there is a strategy from the FIA that presents they are ready to improve things, making everything possible, and thinking outside the box, because we never did that previously. Im quite happy with that.”
The discussion atPaul Ricard covered other contentious ground. Sebastian Vettel, who walked out of a heated Austrian GP briefing in frustration and received a 25,000 suspended fine for so doing, was keen to speak about sausage kerbs.
Not for the 1st time the German highlighted that several drivers in junior categories have suffered back injuries after hitting similar kerbs and removing, and he felt these were not essential in France. He was left exasperated when told they were necessary for the Porsche Supercup event.
Freitas said hed have a think overnight, and on Saturday he confirmed in his updated notes that the kerbs been taken off the corners discussed.
“At the very least, they were recinded, Vettel said after Sundays Grand Prix. It’s just unnecessary risk. We’ve seen so many incidents previously with those sausage kerbs, therefore i think they shouldn’t ever keep coming back.”
Vettel acknowledged that the Ricard briefing have been useful: “I believe we would like to talk to one another, you want to start a dialogue and I believe we are able to improve. I believe it certainly is useful. It isn’t like we’re making the guidelines. It’s simply for us to comprehend what we have been allowed rather than allowed to achieve this. I think it certainly is good to talk.”
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42, Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR22, to the grid for the beginning
Photo by: Alastair Staley / Motorsport Images
It shouldnt be forgotten that the penalties are passed out by the band of four stewards, rather than the race directors. Russell admitted that it might be useful to experienced a minumum of one of the men who penalised him in Austria readily available at Ricard to provide an internal viewpoint.
“You have the stewards from the existing race weekend,” said the Mercedes driver. “But I believe that’s where we are in need of a little more consistency, which you have probably a minumum of one of the stewards from the previous event likely to the following someone to give these explanations. We were consistently getting some explanations from the race director. It’s work happening, for certain.”
The actual fact the stewards differ from race to race is really a regular topic raised by drivers. If they are called up for alleged misbehaviour they never know who they will face.
Its intriguing to check out the 12 races weve had up to now in 2022 a grand total of 27 women and men have served as stewards across those events.
They include four permanent chairmen (Ennser has served at four races this season, Garry Connelly four, Nish Shetty three and Tim Mayer one), and six different driver stewards, with the work alternating between Enrique Bernoldi, Danny Sullivan, Emanuele Pirro, Mika Salo, Derek Warwick and Tonio Liuzzi.
Theres extensive sharing and reviewing of information over the permanent chairmen between events in order to promote consistency, making use of their notes offered to others. However, its inevitable that 27 folks are not always likely to have exactly the same reaction to each and incredibly incident.
There was previously an individual permanent chairman, however the teams rejected the idea since it was felt an individual in charge may have biases. However, it might be time to at the very least decrease the size of the pool that stewards are drawn.
“I believe we’d all be considered a favour to really have the same stewards race-by race,” said Russell. And it’s really even clear between viewers or people within the paddock if there is a certain incident, everybody doesn’t will have exactly the same views.
But whether it’s always one person’s view each and every time at the very least then you’ll learn as time passes concerning their way of thinking into these decisions, and that may make everybody’s life a little easier.”
Its worth recalling too that around about ten years ago the FIA held what one insider describes as “an exceptionally productive” day-long meeting in Geneva, from the pressures of the track, where stewards and some interested drivers and associates exchanged views. Perhaps its time for an identical get together to occur.
Mercedes representatives including Ron Meadows, Sporting Director, Mercedes AMG, go to the FIA stewards
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images