As F1 race director, Charlie Whiting runs
the track action and makes calls on
things like the use of safety cars or red
flags, but he does not impose penalties
– his job is to inform the stewards and
let them make a judgement.
The FIA Sporting Code says that the
stewards “shall have supreme authority
for the enforcement” of the regulations.
Generally they respond to reports sent
to them by Whiting or from FIA F1
technical delegate Jo Bauer, if there is
an issue directly related to a car.
In recent years the FIA has improved
the stewarding process by focusing on
a smaller pool of trusted individuals.
There are four stewards at each race,
headed by a Permanent Chairman from
a rotating group of four. He’s joined by
two other “regular” stewards, one from
an FIA pool of around a dozen, and one
nominated by the national federation.
In an initiative introduced by Jean
Todt, the fourth steward (and not a mere
advisor) is a former driver – a role filled
by the likes of Nigel Mansell (ABOVE),
Alain Prost and Emerson Fittipaldi.
The stewards have a shopping list
of available penalties, from reprimand
to exclusion, via grid penalties, time
penalties and drive-throughs. New
this year is a five-second stop-and-go
penalty that could be added to a
regular pit stop – it was created at the
behest of the stewards, who wanted
something for minor offenses.
The stewards can also hear protests
from competitors, which usually relate
to the eligibility of a rival team’s car.
Charlie Whiting focuses on the operation of
an F1 race, including safety car deployment.
Any penalties are handled by the stewards.
enforcing the rules
F1 rACe ste WArds
“They probably won’t look so bizarre now.”
A fascinating case study was provided by
FRICS, front and rear interconnected
suspension. Such systems had been in use
since 2009, but the FIA began to suspect
teams were pushing the limits of legality,
especially with regard to where they
planned to take things in 2015. Whiting
issued a “Technical Directive” just before
the German GP questioning the legality of
FRICS. It opened the door for teams to
protest rivals. One by one they all decided
to take the systems off their cars – nobody
wanted to be the test case in a protest.
“We can say something is illegal if we
think it is,” says Whiting. “It’s up to the teams
to contest it. Before Germany, we sent the
note out saying we think something could
be called into question, or words to that
effect. It soon became clear that no one was
prepared to risk it in Germany, or in Hungary.
“Then we looked into it in more detail
on some of the systems and felt that there
is really very little doubt that they do
contravene the rules. Hence, another
Technical Directive which says that any car
using it will be reported to the stewards,
whereas before it said they might be.”
Whiting sends out many such Technical
Directives during the year, and they usually
represent a form of “housekeeping,” tidying
up loose ends. Often – as might be the case
with FRICS – they may be incorporated
into the following year’s regulations.
“You can’t put all those things in
regulations, because they’re living, evolving
documents. You keep changing them slightly
to keep up with what you learn about, say,
FRICS. You could argue it’s too complicated
sometimes, but that’s how it’s evolved.”
One positive development this summer
was a directive from the F1 Commission to
the effect that stewards should be more
lenient on driver behavior, and in effect allow
them to race hard – a bit like a soccer referee
being told to keep the action flowing, rather
than blow a whistle for every possible
transgression. It was an unusual move, but
one that showed that, contrary to what
some fans might think, those in charge do
try to do what’s best for the sport.
(ABOVe LeFt) F1’s
bizarre 2014 noses
somehow sneaked in
under the F1 strategy
Group’s radar. (LeFt)
prepares to get the
2014 Grand Prix
of China underway.
design by committee