The World Motor Sport Council met today to discuss a variety of topics surrounding the future of Formula One and one such topics was a improvement needed in the stewarding process at grands prix. 2008 saw an unprecedented number of decisions being made by the three race stewards, and to say they did a less-than-acceptable job is a gross understatement. However, the FIA have promised to be more transparent and share evidence with fans via the FIA and official F1 websites.
When dealing with drivers and their misdemeanour’s, the FIA have to be open and honest with not just those directly involved, but also the very people who so passionately follow the sport and their heroes. The fact it has taken the FIA this long to work that out is quite simply astonishing, but perhaps it’s a case of slow and steady wins the race. And while the decisions made don’t really go far enough, the WMSC’s conclusions are definitely a step in the right direction.
The WMSC and FIA have announced that video evidence from incidents will be made available through their and F1’s official website, as we saw following the Japanese Grand Prix (although I’m still yet to see on-board footage from Sebastien Bourdais’s car – the very footage that would confirm the penalty as just or bonkers). The video footage, if indeed it is necessary for the particular case, will be accompanied by a written explanation as to how the stewards came to their conclusions.
Also, a new replay system will be introduced to allow the stewards to view video footage while the race is continuing, allowing for a more timely response to infringements of the rules. This implies that the stewards didn’t have any means to view replays of footage during 2008, does it not? Which, if true, proves just how prehistoric the FIA are. I have been criticising the stewards this past season for their shoddy use of the phrase “will be investigated after the race”. However, if the authorities weren’t able to instantly view the video evidence, then I must retract some (and only some) of my harsh words.
Of course, if the stewards require telemetry or need to interview the drivers, then some decisions may be delayed. However, giving the stewards the tools to do their jobs properly is undoubtedly another step in the right direction.
It also came apparent this year that some stewards had never visited a grand prix before in their life and some had little-to-no interest or knowledge of the sport. This absolutely blew away fans, journalists and bloggers the world over, and the fact that the FIA would think this is a good idea left us all utterly speechless. To improve this area, the WMSC announced that trainee-stewards will have to visit five races in an observational capacity to see how it all works. The FIA will post short CVs, or biographies to their website so we can fully see the qualifications each steward has.
Training people for the job… whatever next!?
And one final point that the WMSC clarified on is that of ex-drivers being allowed to officiate races. Some people feel it is a good idea because they have been there and experienced similar situations to those encountered in today’s Formula One. However, others feel that this could lead to bias decisions being made. Well, regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, the WMSC have stated that ex-drivers are eligible to apply for a steward’s super license. So it is possible.
This news of further transparency is definitely good and it shows the FIA are heading along a more correct path, especially when it comes to dealing the very people who keep the sport running – the fans. However, what the decisions have shown is just how inadequate the previous procedures were, and how short-sighted the FIA are. Hopefully though, things will improve for 2009 and we’ll see less idiotic penalties being handed out.