Sir Jackie Stewart has said that any plans the F1 hierarchy may have to introduce a system of penalty points to 'reward' repeat offenders needs to be policed with consistency above all else.
To that end, the Scot has suggested that a permanent steward be put in place from the start of next season – the likely jumping off point for any penalty system – in order to ensure that punishments are not disproportionate, or overlooked altogether, by the carousel of individuals currently filling the role.
"I think it's wrong that the FIA have part-time stewards dealing with safety," Stewart, a three-time world champion and passionate safety campaigner, told Reuters
, “It's not correct to have part-time stewards who have just been brought in from any other country for one or two races.
"There's got to be the same people all of the time so that there's no risk that you are going to have peak and valley judgements that are different. It's got to be unilateral, with authority, with expertise and that person should be appointed and paid for. If you are putting penalty points in, then you should be judged consistently."
After much debate, and the occasional dissenting view, the eleven F1 teams voted to approve the penalty points plan during last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, and the system is likely to be trialled 'behind the scenes' before being released to full effect in 2014. The proposal also requires the approval of the World Motor Sport Council, which is likely to debate the issue next month.
Under the system [ see separate story
], a totting up procedure would see drivers reaching a set number – expected to be twelve – receiving a one-race suspension. The exact range of penalties to be included has yet to be revealed, but is likely to extend from on-track incidents down to speeding in pit-lane.
Romain Grosjean was benched for last year's Italian Grand Prix following a first corner incident that eliminated several drivers – including title contenders Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton - in Belgium the week before. Whilst many would judge the incident itself to have been worthy of suspension, it came on the heels of a catalogue of similar misjudgements, hence the FIA's decision to park the Frenchman for one race. Other drivers, however, were given a series of fines and/or grid penalties for misdemeanours on track, without there ever being a hint of a ban, prompting Stewart's latest comments.
"This is the talk, but I don't know what will happen," Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo said in the build-up to the Barcelona race, "We've obviously got to discuss this and make sure that it is not a bad thing. Maybe having maybe a points system like this could clarify what exactly the cost of an incident is.”