FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem has not ruled out the possibility of introducing more of a pragmatic approach to training the stewards in Formula 1 after multiple complaints in recent months.
Former race director Michael Masi was removed from his role ahead of the 2022 season following the extremely controversial end to 2021 that saw Max Verstappen take the title from Sir Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
However, a “turnover” of staff, “confusion” as to the complex regulations, and a lack of “support for Masi, who was having to juggle multiple jobs at once, were highlighted as “key” factors by the governing body in their report.
Since then, Masi has been replaced with a combination of Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, but the structure of race control remains largely the same, so fundamental issues have resurfaced since then.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz called for more “consistency” from the stewards after his penalty in Monaco, and race control also came under fire for the total lack of communication during the rain delay ahead of the race in the Principality.
The president, who won 14 East Rally Championships in his motorsport career, indicated previously that there needs to be a “recruitment drive,” and expressed his intention to add a third race director into the mix.
He now does not want to rule out adopting a system whereby the stewards are given more specific guidelines and training so that they can easily slide in and out of the role.
Ultimately, for him, it is about leaving the sport in a better place than the one he found it in.
“I would like to see it, even if something happens, that the sport can continue; what if I decide tomorrow to retire or if I don’t want to be the person in charge,” he said.
“The sport must continue without missing me. I was asking the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association to help me find the directors we need: do I go to Google or look into Amazon? This is no overnight decision!
“You have to find them and you have to raise and train them. This is why I went back to the old school of rallying scheme: the rally drivers training is more structured and can rotate easily.”
The Emirati knows that, if the correct training is not applied now, the issues that we are currently seeing sill keep on recurring, so the ball has to stop rolling somewhere.
“The event and the sport have to go on, we need to train them to replace them,” explained ben Sulayem.
“If we don’t do it now, we will have the same problem the following year.”
A virtual control room was introduced this season along with the return of Herbie Blash, and ben Sulayem divulged why that was an important step.
“What are the advantages? First of all, backup for the stewards, secondly which is the main reason in my opinion: better training of the stewards,” he stated.
So far this season, Wittich has presided over five of the opening seven rounds of the season, with Freitas in charge of the last two in Spain and Monaco.