Lewis Hamilton has claimed that the appointment of former drivers as a part of the group of race stewards at each grand prix in 2010 has helped the on-track action.

Although the Bahrain Grand Prix - the first event at which new FIA president Jean Todt's initiative was trialled - left observers cold with its lack of excitement, subsequent rounds in Australia, Malaysia and China have changed that view, with unpredictable conditions providing close racing. Hamilton, however, insists that knowing that there is an experienced racing voice amongst the stewards has also prompted those on track to be more aggressive, further enhancing the action.

"I think the FIA and their racing driver stewards this year have been the best I've experienced in F1," the McLaren driver told the audience during a Vodafone promotion in South Africa, "It's difficult in F1, but we're there to race and have a good time, not to mess around. For sure, we're all pushing the boundaries and rules are rules, but I think it's been a lot fairer and definitely more consistent now. The drivers are no longer afraid of having a real battle with someone without the worry of risking a penalty, and I think that's fantastic."

The 2008 world champion has had more than his fair share of run-ins with the officials - ranging from his controversial demotion at the 2007 Belgian Grand Prix to his lie-gate affair in Australia - and was up in front of the stewards again in Shanghai at the weekend. This time, his pit-lane battle with Sebastian Vettel, in which the pair banged wheels, was allowed to pass with little more than a reprimand - a decision that angered BBC analyst - and former driver - Martin Brundle.

"After the brutal - and sometimes unfathomable penalties of the past few years - we now seem to have swung the completely other way," he wrote in his online column for the British broadcaster, suggesting that the action taken in China was too soft.

"I don't believe McLaren were guilty of an unsafe release when Hamilton nearly clouted the side of Vettel's car, but the subsequent driver behaviour down the pit-lane was positively dangerous. Vettel shoved Hamilton towards the wheel guns and mechanics, albeit long after Hamilton should have yielded. They both received a reprimand, but what does that mean? How long does a reprimand last and how many are you allowed to collect before a real penalty?

"They are lucky I wasn't the resident driver steward for the weekend because I would have strongly recommended dropping them both some penalty places on the grid for the next race in Barcelona. The decision taken has set a very dangerous precedent."

Brundle admitted that he did not have the same degree of feeling about the battles between Vettel and Hamilton and between Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa entering the pit-lane - 'where no person or equipment is in the road' - although 'it has been interpreted before that this is against the rules', but would have thought about punishing racewinner Jenson Button.

"I would also have recommended at least a flaky reprimand, if not a drive-through penalty, when Button unreasonably slowed the pack for a safety car restart," he reasoned, "It was a clear breach of the rules unless he could demonstrate that the safety car had been unreasonably slow entering the pit-lane.

"I wouldn't have been a popular steward with my former McLaren team, but that job is not a popularity contest. Ask any referee"

Another former McLaren man, long-time test and reserve driver Alex Wurz, was the guest steward in Shanghai, following on from Alain Prost, Tom Kristensen and Johnny Herbert, who presided over the races in Bahrain, Australia and Malaysia respectively.


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment