The FIA under the new leadership of Mohammed Ben Sulayem has become front and centre in Formula One for a number of reasons. Firstly the new president decided he would clamp down on the drivers breaching the ‘no jewellery’ regulation which has been in place for a number of years but not enforced.
This provoked a furious reaction particularly from Lewis Hamilton who went to great lengths to retain his nose piercing producing a medical certificate stating it could cause infection if repeatedly inserted and removed.
FIA front and centre with new F1 policing
Race control has been another focus for Ben Sulayem. H replaced Michael Massi with two F1 race directors for 2022, though the team and drivers complained of a lack of consistency. Then in Japan, decisions by Edwardo Frittas came close to creating a tragedy he released recovery trucks onto a live track in torrential rain where visibility was close to zero.
Yet the most pervasive change from the FIA has been the decision to police track limits at every corner on every track, something the late Charlie Whiting refused to contemplate.
For fans, this appears to be a fair and reasonable approach given the lack of penalty on a number of the modern circuits for cars leaving the circuit. In days of yore either grass or gravel would serve up the punishment should a driver transgress beyond the white line.
There is now a team of FIA representatives based in Geneva watching every angle of the TV footage together with CCTV which is not available to the fans. Yet this has descended into farce at a number of circuits like in Austria where more than 100 track limits violations were reported to the stewards for review.
Capacity of stewards questionable
It appears the capacity of the stewards at the circuit is not sufficient when a significant number of track limit violations are reported.
Following the Austrian Grand Prix, Aston Martin called for a review of the race result after successfully demonstrating the stewards had failed to consider all the track limits violations reported.
Last season Haas protested the result of the US Grand Prix claiming the stewards had failed to act against Alonso who was driving his Alpine for several laps with a loose driving mirror. The review initially decided Fernando was in fact guilty of driving in a dangerous fashion and penalised though Aston Martin successfully appealed on the basis Haas had not submitted their protest within the time limits allowed.
This year in Austin, Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg came home 11th just outside the points but was crucially within two seconds of the Williams’ driver Logan Sargeant and four seconds of ninth placed Alex Albon.
Austin GP race result protested
Albon was post review given a five second time penalty and whilst it was alleged he had committed a number of others, the stewards decided it was impossible to ascertain this due to a lack of evidence.
Lando Norris who finished the race 2nd admitted after the chequered flag he had deliberately abused track limits at turn six because he believed the stewards could not monitor that section of the circuit properly.
The race was marred with driver after driver complaining about their competitors for breaches over teams radio and some 35 laps were deleted during the race although Albon was the only driver penalised.
Haas have now protested the result of this year’s Grand Prix held in Austin just under two weeks ago claiming the stewards did not consider all of the track limits infringements which would have affected the final result.
Albon should receive “16 five second penalties”
Teams have 14 days after a race to lodge a protest and the US GP was held 13 days ago.
The stewards from that race will now convene and decide upon a date and time for a hearing to be held. Summons will be issued to all parties concerned and then following the review a decision will be made on whether Haas have delivered strong enough evidence for the race result to be altered.
Haas have studied the onboard footage from all 20 cars involved in the event and believe there was a huge number of track limit violations not considered bye the stewards.
The American team stands to gain from their protest being upheld and their dossier suggests Alex Albon should have been issued with an astonishing 16 five second penalties.
Top ten order will have been completely changed except for winner
Logan Sargeant, Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll have also been cited as drivers who also should have been punished by the stewards with multiple time penalties too. This would promote Haas driver Nico Hulkneberg Ito the points paying positions.
Yet other changes in the standings are likely if Haas protest is upheld. While the top three will be unaffected, George Russell could also be promoted to P4 ahead of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda.
Nico Hulkenberg would then follow in P7 giving Haas the vital six points they require in their fight with Alfa Romeo and Alpha Tauri. The top ten would be rounded out with Valtteri Bottas, Logan Sargeant and Sergio Perez.
If the Haas protest is upheld, this will add to Formula One’s woes in what was already a troubled weekend calling into question the current format when there is a Sprint event included.
FIA cannot police current regulations
Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc have already been disqualified from the event despite Hamilton claiming P2 and receiving his trophy and adulation from the crowd.
The FIA must decide whether it can fully resource the current track limits regulations and if not then the rules around track limits must change. Not each and every corner provides the drivers with the opportunity of gaining an unfair advantage by leaving the track and so maybe the Charlie Whiting methodology of policing just the critical turns, should return.
The owners of the Austrian circuit have been ordered to change the kerbs at the final two corners which were the cause of most infringements at this years chaotic race. They will be introducing the controversial pyramid kerbs used in Qatar which caused the circuit to require a revision after the qualifying sessions on Friday.