The effect of the FIA’s race control decision may well prove a watershed for Formula One’s governing body. The stark irony was that the celebration in Monza of 100 years racing at the historic circuit finished with no racing behind the safety car. The decisions by race control was criticised by Mattia Binotto, Christian Horner and much of the paddock media, yet the FIA issued a statement hiding behind their ‘primary duty’ declared as ‘safety’.
Controversial events in Abu Dhabi 2021 where then F1 race director Michael Massi interpreted the Safety Car rules in such a way to ensure the deciding race and the season did not finish under a safety car, the FIA has supposedly performed an exhaustive review over the protocols.
Further, the F1 teams and the outgoing race director had agreed in 2020 a principle for adjudicating on track intervention by the stewards to be held to the “let them race” mantra which Niki Laura coined as his own.
In an attempt to improve decisions the FIA have set up a football. Style remote video replay centre in Geneva tasked with assisting race control wherever it is in the world. Yet far from improving and speeding up decisions and on track operations it appears to have created an addition procedural loop which creates further delay.
The difference between football’s VAR and and the Geneva video analysis team is that decisions in football can almost always be made retrospectively without affecting the game. No match has finished while the fans stand and watch their team waiting for a decision to restart the action, unlike the experience of over 100,000 paying supporters in Monza.
David Coulthard and the Channel 4 team were incredulous as the Lap 47 stopping on track of Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren resulted in little or no information being forthcoming from the FIA about how to proceed over the next 6 laps.
“We were pretty much just kept in the dark,” Coulthard said. “There was very little information being fed to us, and clearly different information being sent to the majority of the field.
“The procedure is very clear. Normally, once the instruction is given that lapped cars can retake their position, which is always a bit of a laborious process anyway, and there’s a long-winded explanation as to why they always do that, but it just didn’t happen well, and it’s left me with a deflated feeling.
“And what was an exciting weekend of Grand Prix racing and could have been an incredible grandstand finish on soft tyres for a one-lap shootout, we go back less than 12 months, we know how that worked out in Abu Dhabi.”
Race control was simply focused on how to clear the circuit, they lost sight that they were in charge of a motor race.
Coulthard believes the FIA needs a rethink and that the new virtual race control centre in Geneva has just created more problems than it solves.
“I think that every decision that has been made this year has definitely had a very sort of considered position,” said Coulthard.
“We know from the new president of the FIA, they have a virtual team, almost like the operations rooms that the Formula 1 teams have with their strategists back in base, looking at things in a non-emotional way.
“But that procedure is clearly slowing things down and then not even delivering really sort of fast and on the money decisions.”
Since the arrival of Liberty Media as F1’s commercial rights holder, the sport is in boom. The inaugural race in Miami this season sold out in around 30 minutes and most circuits are sell outs weeks before their GP event.
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Coulthard believes the FIA should be adopting a more ‘helicopter’ view of their duties rather than simply claim their only role is to manage safety and regulation compliance.
“I think what the FIA don’t really fully understand is that they’re not just a governing body which prioritises safety and everything, we are a sport, we’re a show,” Coulthard proposed.
“And a little bit like you can’t rerun the countdown to New Year, we have to try and give everybody the opportunity to enjoy the moment, that moment of the chequered flag, the rush to the celebration of the Grand Prix.”
The white smoke from yesterday’s pow-wow in Monza between the FIA and the teams has not yet emerged. Coincidentally, a ‘sporting summit’ had been called several weeks ago by FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulyem to discuss how the FIA could perform better and garner support from the teams.
Clearly, the agenda would have been altered significantly by the events in Monza which not only saw the Formula One race end in farce, but F2 and F3 races and titles affected by poor decisions from race control.
READ MORE: Humiliated FIA mess up F3, F2 swell as F1 race in Monza
Wasn’t the main issue on Sunday, the point at which the safety car was released, relative to the leader (who pitted at just the “wrong” point) and how quickly the SC picked up (or didn’t) the leaders
The consensus with professional media however, is that all protocols were followed correctly
Race control have lost sight that they are in charge of a public paying motor race. They have become control freaks and just don’t care anything about the actual race, because they are so busy covering their arses
Although first and foremost they are responsible for safety
It all seems too cautious to me. Unless the stricken car is actually obstructing the circuit, why is a safety car needed? Have a look at rallying – they race among TREES.
Blame Bianchi and his ignorance of waved double yellows.