The FIA has given a rare insight into the world of F1 stewards in its new magazine Auto
, including more thinking behind the decision to hand Romain Grosjean a one-race ban earlier this year.
The Lotus ace was banned from the Italian Grand Prix at Monza for his part in the start-line accident at Spa that took a number of cars – including Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton – out of the race.
The decision to ban Grosjean was a hot topic of discussion for some time, and Garry Connelly, who acted as a steward at seven events this season, admitted that there were a range of reasons why the ban had been handed down.
“Take a driver who has caused as collision,” Connelly said. “Typically the offence is punishable by a drivethrough, but more recently there have been a couple of occasions where a stop-go has been imposed. That has typically been because the offence has been a second one or more by that driver during the season. So you do look at the driver's record.
“We also now take into account the consequences of the penalty. This wasn't done previously and it might lead people to think that there are inconsistencies, but if someone is coming third in a race by 50 seconds, then giving them a drive-through is not a penalty, potentially. So you do look at the consequences.
“You've also got to look at the consequences of their action. To relate this to a civil situation, if I throw a punch at you and miss, I'm probably going to get charged by the police with attempted assault or something like that. But if I connect and break your jaw, I'm going to get charged with assault causing bodily harm or something like that. That could lead me to suffer more dire consequences. It's the same action, but the repercussions are much different each time.
“[The Grosjean] incident could have completely changed the outcome of the FIA's premier championship. But what Romain got the extra penalty for was not that, or at least not wholly for that. When you're a relatively new driver to Formula One and you have the privilege of driving in a potentially winning or podium finish car, you're mixing it with a group of drivers who have many years more experience than you do at the sharp end of the field. It therefore behoves you, in our view, to exercise greater care and attention because you are, with all due respect, the new kid on the block and maybe a little out of your league compared with the guys around you at that end of the grid.
“It was a very serious decision and one that was taken only after lengthy weighing of the facts, the evidence, history, everything. However, every decision weighs heavily on the stewards' minds. No decision to penalise a driver is ever taken lightly.”
Grosjean's ban was the most serious penalty handed down during the 2012 season, although many of his rivals fell foul of the stewards over the course of the campaign to pick up anything from a reprimand to a drive-through penalty or grid drop.