Since the dismissal of Michael Massi the new look Formula One race governance has looked somewhat shaky. Drivers had repeatedly complained of inconsistency win the decision making of race control chelatest being Max Verstappen avoiding sanction despite ignoring a yellow flag in FP3 last weekend in Belgium. Track limits monitoring has also proved highly controversial particularly when penalties for Q2 have been awarded when a the Q3 qualifying session has been completed.
Michael Massi may have upset Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton fans in Abu Dhabi yet he was steeped in F1, learning his trade under the long standing F1 race director Charlie Whiting as deputy race director.
Since his ‘departure’ seemingly managed to appease Mercedes, the FIA appointed two race directors who alternate the race control duties, yet neither have F1 experience as did Massi as Whiting’s deputy.
New FIA president Mohamed Ben Sulayem justified this decision stating “I would like that the Federation, if the President is gone tomorrow or whatever happens, it’s not relying on me or relying on a person, it has to rely on a team,” said Ben Sulayem.
“And that’s the only way we can make it sustainable. In one of my interviews I said where can I get race directors? I cannot go and Google them, or go on Amazon, you have to create them.
However, Ben Sulayem admits this approach is not without its failings.
“I tell you what happened this year, it’s a bandage, it’s not a cure,” admitted the FIA president.
The latest controversy in the wings is set for this weekend’s race in Zandvoort.
Formula One is set to use an extended DRS zone at the Dutch GP through the final steeply banked corner. In 2021 the second DRS zone began after the banked turn 14.
While the first zone will remain as was, questions are being asked over the appropriate change race control are making over zone 2.
The banking at Zandvoort was designed with DRS in mind, however there has always been a concern that the incremental load from the cars using DRS here will create a safety problem with the Pirelli tyres.
By increasing the speed through this turn and creating greater overtaking possibilities could create a spectacular crash Indycar oval style as the cars grip is reduced on this high speed turn
Further, at the recent Belgium GP, race control got it wrong with the DRS zone up the long Kemmel straight being too powerful, as noted by Martin Brundle’s commentary for SKY F1.
Zandvoort was designed prior to the current new F1 car regulations which have made it much easier for cars to overtake during the races and so the idea of introducing the DRS zone in turn 14 may well be redundant.
Despite certain drivers complaining in 2021 about the difficulty in overtaking at the Dutch circuit, Fernando Alonso went on record to note other tracks were far worse in this aspect.
Fortunately, the regulations allow the FIA representatives attending the race in Zandvoort to experiment with the DRS on Friday and make modifications following the practice sessions.
At this year’s Australian GP, Race Control experimented with a 4th DRS zone, but following Friday practice abandoned the idea for the rest of the weekend.
This season we have seen more overtaking since the introduction of the new ground effect cars and part of the reason is because teams are more adventurous with strategy. Gone are the days where track position is sacrosanct, F1 teams are prepared to risk more in terms of early pit stops and trust the tyre offset with new rubber together with the new F1 car design will allow them to come through the field.
Max Verstappen started P10 and P14 in the past two races respectively and won them both. This feat hasn’t been seen in F1 since 1959.
It is a mistake by the FIA to extend the Zandvoort DRS zone and hopefully the Friday practice sessions will help them see the error of their ways, without serious injury or worse.