Wolff and Horner in agreement over changes to stewarding after 2021 Abu Dhabi GP controversy

Multiple structural changes have been made to race control since the contentious end to the 2021 championship.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner both believe that the recent changes to race control are necessary, but are unconvinced by Sir Lewis Hamilton’s comment that there is any bias from the stewards.

Hamilton was cruelly denied his record eighth world title last year after a contentious Safety Car restart from race director Michael Masi allowed Max Verstappen to pass him on the final lap.

In the coming days, Wolff said that he and the Briton had become “disillusioned” by the pinnacle of motorsport.

Former Formula 1 driver Johnny Herbert has since opined that Masi’s late call was a “twist” of the sporting regulations, and he claimed that the Australian had done “too much damage” to the integrity of the FIA.

As a result, the 44-year-old has now been removed from his role as race director by new FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, who has appointed Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas to replace him.

Former deputy race director Herbie Blash has been drafted in to support them, while a virtual control room will also be set up.

The alterations to race control since the events in December have been wholesale, and as testing for the new season got underway in Barcelona earlier this week, Hamilton suggested that there is a bias towards certain drivers from the stewards.

Wolff and Horner responded to these comments during their own media session, and the Austrian highlighted the importance of a high “standard” in the stewards’ office.

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

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

“But most important is, whether we talk about the race direction, the support that they will have back at base or the stewards, there needs to be a standard.

“This is what we deserve, this is what everybody expects. I think there are some very good people that we can build upon.

“Most importantly, and we all have talked about it last year, it was the topic of inconsistency. There shouldn’t be a lot of room to interpret the rules.”

Many have suggested that Masi made his bizarre call last season based on the context of the championship ramifications, and the 50-year-old insists that this cannot be allowed to happen.

“There shouldn’t be a lot of leniencies depending on what the potential outcome might be. But the rules are the rules,” he added.

“I think, as everything is being restructured, I have faith in Mohammed [ben Sulayem, newly elected FIA president] that, going forward, we will optimise all these structures.”

Horner also recognised the need for tangible changes to race management.

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

“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.

However, he rejects the notion that the stewards have been biased in recent years.

“But I certainly don’t think that there was any bias from stewards during the last seasons,” he added.

Wittich and Freitas were in position during the first three days of pre-season testing, and will alternate throughout 2022.