Hamilton says some stewards are biased due to friendship with drivers

Sir Lewis Hamilton has said he would like to see more women operating in race control.

Sir Lewis Hamilton has suggested that some stewards, be it unknowingly or otherwise, often favour certain drivers due to their friendship with them.

Hamilton was harshly denied his eighth world championship last year following a controversial Safety Car restart by race director Michael Masi ahead of the final lap.

As a legacy of that, Max Verstappen was able to pass the Briton on the final lap of the race to snatch his maiden Formula 1 championship in dramatic fashion.

Masi has since been relieved of his duties as race director by new FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, and he has been replaced by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who are to receive support from former deputy race director Herbie Blash and a virtual control room which ben Sulayem has compared to VAR in football.

Hamilton himself suggested after Mercedes’ unveiling of the W13 last week that it was the “first step” towards creating a more efficient and consistent race control.

Testing got underway in Barcelona yesterday, and the Mercedes driver was one of five drivers invited to a press conference ahead of the 2022 season.

The 37-year-old believes that some stewards are more inclined to favour certain drivers, and this needs to change.

“We need to make sure we get non-biased stewards,” he said.

“Racing drivers, some are very, very good friends with certain individuals. Some travel with certain individuals, and tend to take more of a keen liking to some of them.

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“I just think [we need] people who have no bias and are super central when it comes to making decisions.”

The Briton’s very own diversity initiative, the Hamilton Commission, has sought to investigate the reasons for a lack thereof and it found in 2021 that only one percent of employees in F1 are black, while research shows a pattern of women in motorsport being subjected to “banter that crossed the line.”

The seven-time champion wants to see more women in race control.

“I want to see more women in the stewards’ room,” he added.

“I don’t think we have many, I think last year it was maybe one or two. And I think it would be awesome for them to have a male and female as the two race directors.

“I think that’s a great way of promoting diversity too.”

FIA hails ‘strong and independent’ stewards

The FIA have since reacted to Hamilton’s comments, and released a statement stressing their pride in the development of their stewards around the globe.

“The FIA is proud of its global stewarding pathway that connects and develops the most talented stewards from across motor sport.

“This has resulted in a strong, independent and experienced group of officials who carry out their work with impartiality and the utmost professionalism,” he added.

Wolff says no ‘conscious bias’ in F1 stewarding

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff responded to his driver’s comments, emphasising that professionalism is vital in race management while affirming his belief that if there is any bias, it is not intentional.

“I think we need professionalism in the stewards’ room,” he said.

“I don’t think there is a conscious bias, to be honest. It’s intelligent people.”

His Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner, who was hilariously offered a Mercedes mask by Wolff after forgetting his own, has praised the work ben Sulayem has done since he took charge, and hopes that it, at least in part, eradicates stewarding bias towards certain drivers.

“We’ve all been on the receiving end of stewards’ decisions that we’ve been unhappy about,” explained the 48-year-old.

“I would agree with Toto that I don’t think there’s an intended bias. I’m not aware of any stewards travelling with drivers to races.

“And, in Mohammed, we have a new president that’s looking to bolster the structure and to bring in the equivalent of a VAR [Video Assistant Referee].

“It’s something that certainly the top teams have available to them. I think giving a better infrastructure for clearer decisions with clear regulations is something that should be strived for. But I certainly don’t think that there was any bias from stewards during the last seasons.”

Wittich was until recently the race director in the DTM series, while Freitas has over 20 years’ of experience at the helm of World Endurance Championship (WEC) racing.