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So much for improved stewarding

April 10th, 2009

Sir Jackie StewartAt the end of last year the FIA published a number of changes to the Formula One stewarding process to try to improve the consistency and openness of the stewards’ decisions.  I think you would have to admit that despite these changes they haven’t really made much progress.

In 2008 Lewis Hamilton was stripped of his win in the Belgian Grand Prix after the stewards decided he had gained an advantage by cutting the chicane when passing Kimi Raikkonen.  At the time, Niki Lauda called it “the worst judgment in the history of Formula One”and Sir Jackie Stewart was (as usual) outspoken in his criticism of the FIA.

The stewards made a mistake in Spa and so had to invent a new rule saying a driver must wait until the second corner before repassing after giving a position back.

Now, in the very first race of the 2009 season, we have the results of a race being changed after it has finished.  Twice.  Again, because of a failure of the stewards.  Ironically, it probably only happened because  McLaren were paranoid about receiving a penalty.  If you look at what actually happened on track, the drivers didn’t do anything wrong.  Hamilton passed Trulli perfectly legally and when Hamilton was ordered to let Trulli past there was nothing the Toyota driver could have done differently.

Sir Jackie Stewart has again spoken out against the unprofessional stewarding that has led to the sacking of one McLaren employee and as yet unknown further sanctions against the team when McLaren appear before the World Motor Sport Council later this month.  The triple World Champion said the whole thing could have been avoided if race control had been better organised and responded to McLaren’s requests for clarification at the time:

It seems strange that only one person has the authority to deal with these inquiries which could be result-changing in a multi-million pound sport.  As it is, we now have a potentially serious state of affairs for McLaren.

Sir Jackie’s right.  What Hamilton and Ryan did after the race was wrong but it could all have been avoided with better stewarding.

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