SportF1F1 Stewards: what they do and who they are...

F1 Stewards: what they do and who they are at the Saudi Arabian GP

F1 stewards often make the news when they are forced to impose penalties that are not to the liking of the fans.

Although most people would like battles to be settled on the court, the nature of any sport is that someone has to interpret the rules and enforce them as fairly as possible.

They are there to ensure compliance with the regulations, not to make the most popular or populist decision. And in that sense, few people will envy the ‘dirty’ work of the F1 stewards.

The way stewards work in F1 has evolved a lot over the years, among other things because of the technology that is currently in the category.

They now have access to hundreds of camera angles, live data, radio messages from teams and much more, and still manage to make decisions in a matter of minutes.

Some argue that F1 would benefit from loosening regulations and letting the drivers work out the problems for themselves.

But history suggests that there will always be contentious moments, no matter how black or white the rules are.

Michael Masi, Race Director, FIA, Emanuele Pirro, Driver Steward, FIA, and other FIA memebrs walk the circuit

Michael Masi, FIA Race Director, Emanuele Pirro, FIA Steward Driver, and other FIA members

How are F1 stewards chosen?

On any grand prix weekend, there are a number of race officials or stewards whose job it is to oversee procedures, abide by the rules and ensure the safety of everyone from drivers to fans while there are cars on the track.

Some of them are permanent stewards, who are present at all races. Among them are the race director and the start chief .

In addition, for each grand prix a panel of stewards is appointed. His job is to deliberate cases and make decisions based on the F1 regulations and the FIA sporting codes.

Three of the stewards, one of whom will be elected chairman, are appointed by the FIA from the international pool holding the necessary FIA Super License (it is different from the drivers).

One of the members of this panel has long been a former pilot, who is there to ensure that the pilots’ point of view is taken into account when deciding on incidents.

Another commissioner is appointed by the race’s own national sporting authority, which also proposes the track secretary .

A marshal waves the red flag

A commissioner waves the red flag

Who are the stewards for the 2021 F1 Saudi Arabian GP in Jeddah?

The four FIA stewards who will work on the F1 race in Jeddah are:

  • Garry Connelly – Connelly has been an FIA Steward and FIA Observer since 1989, working in, among other categories, Formula 1.
  • Silvia Bellot – Bellot started as a steward in 2001, and since then she has worked as a steward in categories such as the WRC, WTCC , DTM and other single-seaters. She became the FIA’s first female race director, presiding over the Formula 2 and Formula 3 championships in 2020.
  • Vitantonio Liuzzi – Liuzzi is a former Formula 1 driver who took part in 80 races in the top category. He has raced for Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Force India and Hispania Racing/HRT.
  • Hassan Alabdali – Alabdali has been involved in motorsports for almost 15 years and has worked on everything from sports cars to motorcycles, rallying and more. He was steward of the Formula E ePrix in Saudi Arabia.

What do Formula 1 officials, judges and stewards do?

The race director has “supreme authority” in a number of areas during a grand prix weekend, working with the track secretary to give orders.

The race director controls practice, qualifying and the race, making sure that the program is carried out correctly. If necessary, the race director can propose changes to the schedules; for example, if heavy rain forces a session to be delayed.

He decides if the red flag is raised to stop the sessions, sends the safety car to the track and imposes the Virtual Safety Car, and instructs the lapped cars to overtake if they have to, among other responsibilities.

The track secretary must be in constant contact with the race director and with all track marshal positions during each session. It is the point of contact between race control and track workers to inform them of what the race director has decided.

The job of the permanent starter is to supervise the procedures that start the races.

That involves activating the lights-out sequence once cars have lined up on the grid and making sure standing starts are completed safely.

That responsibility used to be overseen by Charlie Whiting , but it became a job for someone other than race director after his unexpected death on the eve of the 2019 season.

In the meantime, the stewards’ job is to rule on racing incidents and apply penalties for breaches of the sporting code and technical regulations if they have been brought to their attention by the stewards or delegates.

They may rely on any video recording or electronic information (eg telemetry data) to make their decisions.

Like the track secretary, the chairman of the stewards must be in permanent contact with the race director whenever there are cars on the circuit.

Mika Salo and Charlie Whiting, FIA Delegate

Mika Salo and Charlie Whiting, FIA delegate

Who are the key stewards and judges in Formula 1?

F1’s race director is Michael Masi , who took over the role in 2019 following the death of Charlie Whiting. The permanent starter is Christian Bryll , who took over for the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix when Whiting’s various duties were divvied up.

The role of the stewards driver was introduced at the start of the 2010 Formula 1 season in response to criticism that the stewards’ decisions had been inconsistent.

Previously, stewards panels could be made up of people with no racing experience as such, although this is no longer the case.

Recognized names to have stepped into the role in the last decade include Derek Daly , former Tyrrell and Williams driver; Tom Kristensen , nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner; Emanuele Pirro , five-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner; Derek Warwick , former F1 driver and former Chairman of the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC); Mick Doohan , a five-time 500cc motorcycling world champion, as well as former F1 champions Emerson Fittipaldi , Alan Jones and Nigel Mansell .

In 2020, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Johnny Herbert were among the former F1 drivers to take the job, while Vitaly Petrov – controversially appointed to last year’s Portuguese Grand Prix after making comments about Lewis Hamilton’s anti-racist stance – resigned. to his duties after the death of his father.

Derek Warwick, FIA Steward

Derek Warwick, commissioner of the FIA

Historic moments with the Formula 1 stewards

The decisions made by F1 officials and stewards have caused controversy throughout the history of the category.

Although fans seem to abhor the idea of track results being altered after the checkered flag is dropped, post-race penalties have provided some memorable championship defining moments.

However, not all official decisions are made after the race.

The 1984 Monaco Grand Prix was a case in point: a young Ayrton Senna had qualified 13th in an uncompetitive Toleman, but torrential rain on race day allowed the Brazilian to put his supreme talent to work on the water and climb positions.

Chasing leader Alain Prost, Senna looked like a contender for victory and the Frenchman, who had a brake problem, began gesturing furiously at the stewards in the pitlane for the red flag to be shown and the race abandoned.

Jacky Ickx , in charge of the stewards’ decisions, did so at the end of lap 32. Although Senna passed the slower Prost before the finish line, it was Prost who took the win as he takes the classification of the previous lap.

However, he only scored 4.5 points for the win (instead of the usual nine), as 75% of the race had not been completed. That same year, Niki Lauda beat him to the title by just half a point…

Senna and Prost would be at the center of controversy again five years later, when the two drivers – as teammates at McLaren and fighting for the title – collided at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix .

The impact knocked championship leader Prost out of the race, but Senna was able to get back on track and eventually took the lead with a couple of laps to go.

However, after the race, the stewards decided that Senna had rejoined the track illegally, disqualifying the Brazilian and handing the championship to Prost in the absence of a grand prix.

Alain Prost, McLaren, Ayrton Senna, McLaren

Alain Prost, McLaren, Ayrton Senna, McLaren

One of the strangest outcomes in F1 occurred at the 1998 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Mika Hakkinen was leading the race in the rain, but a spin damaged his McLaren and a safety car erased his lead shortly afterwards. When the race resumed, Michael Schumacher took the lead in his Ferrari and was on his way to a comfortable victory.

However, with two laps to go, Schumacher was handed a 10-second penalty for overtaking behind the safety car.

Not knowing whether the penalty should be taken as a stop & go or added to his final time, Ferrari called Schumacher into the pits on the final lap.

That meant he could serve his penalty at that point, but as the Ferrari pit lay beyond the checkered flag point, the German finished the race in the pitlane before serving his punishment.

Podium: race winner Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, second place Mika Hakkinen, McLaren, third place Eddie Irvine, Ferrari

Podium: winner Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, second Mika Hakkinen, McLaren, and third Eddie Irvine, Ferrari

McLaren protested the result, but Ferrari ultimately argued to the FIA that the penalty had been issued too late considering when the infringement had occurred, and that the exact penalty had not been clarified.

At a hearing at the FIA International Court of Appeal it was decided that the stewards that day had made a number of mistakes. And Schumacher was allowed to keep his fourth win of the season.

Although practices have improved considerably since the early years of the series, F1 stewards can still generate debate with their decisions.

It can happen sometimes when they do their job properly and enforce the rules as they should be.

Max Verstappen was taken from the antechamber of the podium, seconds before leaving for the trophy ceremony, after being penalized for his last-minute overtaking of Kimi Raikkonen at the 2017 United States Grand Prix, when he had achieved position by leaving track.

Although his actions were a clear violation of the rules, it did not prevent many of his followers from feeling that he had been treated unfairly.

Verstappen’s overtaking came under scrutiny again at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix , coming into contact with Charles Leclerc when he overtook the young Ferrari driver for the lead in the closing moments of the race.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15, collides with Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF90

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15, se choca con Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF90

It took several hours for the stewards to complete their investigation and confirm that the Dutchman had indeed won the grand prix cleanly.

That came just weeks after Sebastian Vettel was stripped of victory at the Canadian Grand Prix.

The German briefly lost control of his Ferrari at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve , with the stewards deciding that the way he rejoined the track had unfairly hampered Lewis Hamilton .

Although the Briton was unable to overtake him, Vettel’s five-second penalty meant Hamilton only had to keep up with his rival to claim victory.

In protest after the race, Vettel arrived at Parc Fermé and placed the number 2 sign in front of Hamilton’s Mercedes and put the 1 in front of the empty space where his Ferrari should have been, which was parked at the end of the pitlane .

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 2nd position, switches the position boards in protest of a penalty that cost him victory

Sebastian Vettel changes the first and second posters after a penalty that took victory from him in Canada 2019

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