20 June 2014
Kate Walker: The other decision made in London
Crash.net's Kate Walker looks at one of the outcomes from the F1 Commission meeting on Wednesday and how it should help improve racing at no extra cost
Titanium skid planks to spark up the racing, the saving of tyre blankets, standing Safety Car restarts, and no change to Friday's running. This week was all about discussions on the future of Formula One at the highest level, and the aftershocks are still being felt in the Spielberg paddock.
Perhaps the most exciting and under-reported of the proposals, however, was the news that stewards are going to refrain from investigating each and every incident that results in a collision. Instead, the stewards will determine for themselves just what merits further study – unless the incident in question has been flagged by a team or blame is clearly on the shoulders of a single driver.
Contrary to reports elsewhere that a number of teams raised the issue, Crash.net has learned that the proposal was made by a single team principal in Wednesday's F1 Commission meeting in London. Subsequent discussion established that it was a popular suggestion, and consequently it is likely to be passed without issue at next week's WMSC meeting in Munich, coinciding with the FIA's Sport Conference Week.
Given the composition of the F1 Commission – which is made up of representatives from the teams, FIA, FOM, race promoters, sponsors, and suppliers of tyres, fuel, and power units – no serving stewards were available to give their input to the proposal. That chance could come at the WMSC meeting, with several active stewards currently members of the World Motor Sport Council, but it is more likely that the F1 Commission's proposals will be ratified without further debate.
The downside to the plan – for everything in life has both positive and negative aspects – comes from the fact that the stewards vary from race to race, meaning that it is highly unlikely that we will see consistent agreement in terms of what does and doesn't merit further investigation. But that is little different to the system we have at present, with driver stewards using the benefit of their own experience to help determine the difference between a racing incident and something meriting punishment.
Which isn't to say that stewarding is a matter of opinion under any system: whatever instant reactions and gut instincts the stewards may have regarding a potential incident, they put those feelings aside and use the wealth of telemetry, on-board cameras, and circuit video feeds to form the basis of any judgements made.
In terms of improving the show without increasing anyone's budget or responsibilities, having the stewards take a step back from policing driving standards is a positive step. With the drivers less concerned about hard racing leading to reprimands or penalties we are likely to see closer, harder fighting between similarly matched cars, assuming of course that 2015's aero lets cars get close enough to fight.
It does, however, render somewhat pointless (pun not intended) the penalty points system introduced by the FIA over the 2013/4 winter, a concept that was designed to improve driving standards on track in light of consistent, dangerous, and seemingly deliberate mistakes repeated ad infinitum by certain drivers since long before their arrival in Formula One.
By Kate Walker
Kate Walker is a senior F1 writer for Crash.net. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, she keeps an eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes Formula One a political melodrama.
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