Sunday, November 9, 2008

Steward Changes Are Missing The Point

Thursday 6th November 2008

The FIA has launched its latest attempt to inject some credibility into the stewarding process. Andrew Davies is wary that it's nothing more than a box of fudge.

Lewis Hamilton's fifth place at the Brazilian Grand Prix was a relief. And not just to the people who wanted the McLaren driver to win the World Chapionship. His four points for fifth place on Sunday took him one point higher than Felipe Massa and gave him the World Championship he well and truly deserved.

It was a big relief to those F1 fans who didn't want to see the winter months mired by talk of outrageously inconsistent stewarding decisions.

Two races earlier Felipe Massa had been given an extra point by the Japanese GP race stewards in what is widely regarded as the most incomprehensible F1 stewarding decision in the last ten years. Perhaps of all time. When Massa collided with the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Bourdais it was widely expected that if anyone was going to collect a penalty it would be the Ferrari driver.

There was utter disblief when Bourdais, who had been racing for position and been struck by Massa from the side, was relegated down the order enabling Massa to finish one place higher.
Had the rain failed to fall as hard as it did on that fateful last lap, then Timo Glock would have scrabbled to fifth, Hamilton would have tied Massa on championship points, and the single point that the FIA handed Massa at Mount Fuji would have won him the title.

Pete Gill's benchmark stewarding analysis has highlighted the woeful lack of consistency, transparency and comprehensibility from F1's referees over the last season. At least they didn't swing the final outcome.

Last year, as we were navigating our way through the repercussions of the Ferrari/McLaren/Renault spygate saga, Max Mosley came up with his great crusading mission statement - "in the interests of sporting fairness." 2008 has seemingly been all about sporting unfairness towards one team.

The sheer spectacle of the final race, combined with a whole pile of new technical regulations that will make the 2009 cars look like some bastardised one-make series, might produce enough smoke to cloud over the sorry stewarding issue. It shouldn't.

We came within two corners of the World Championship being decided by three men with less combined F1 experience than a pop-up toaster. Well, maybe a little more. Unless something is radically changed, it could happen again.

The changes the FIA have announced in Paris yesterday may give us some more camera angles and a written explanation to decisions, but there is little substantial change to the idea that the stewards are Max's fiefdom, and Allan Donnelly the serf overseer. And most important of all, there is still no permanent steward in place to grant decisions some consistency.

When TonyScott-Andrew was in charge as the permanent steward we had no endless arguments about stewarding decisions, or any questions about explanations, or calls for more cameras, or requests to see their CVs. It was because there was a level of consistency there.

What the FIA are proposing now still doesn't allow for consistency or independence, the two things most needed. And as you can see from reading Pete Gill's feature, the trend in the past is to make an announcement (such as the nationality of race stewards) in an obscure part of the off-season and then not stick to it.

More replays, more decisions during the race and more explanations are all good. What Max needs to do now is go the whole hog.

Andrew Davies

Source : Planet F1

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