The governing body made significant changes to the way F1 races are refereed following Max Verstappen’s victory in the 2021 season finale, when safety car rules were interpreted in a new way by race director Michael Masi.
The FIA has recruited two new race directors to oversee F1 events this year: former DTM race director Niels Wittich and World Endurance Championship race director Eduardo Freitas, who currently works at the 24 Hours of Mans 2022.
This was the FIA’s flagship change, but among other measures implemented, it also created a virtual arbitration room at its base in Geneva to assist the race director on site, as well as to oblige the chiefs of team to contact race control via an intermediary official during the track. stock.
But the changes have not stopped causing controversy this season, while Wittich’s emphasis on banning riders from wearing jewelry and ensuring they wear compliant flame-retardant underwear on the track also made headlines.
Rules debates this year include Carlos Sainz upset that race control didn’t intervene sooner when it was clear he had beaten Sergio Perez to the pit exit safety car line in Jeddah , Fernando Alonso’s fury at being penalized for cutting a chicane in Miami and the two Red Bull cars were allowed to cross the pit exit line last time out in Monaco, when Yuki Tsunoda’s similar move on the Austria 2021 pit entry line has been sanctioned.
Several drivers also expressed frustration that a requested Tecpro barrier had not been installed at the Miami chicane following Sainz’s serious accident there, where Esteban Ocon subsequently cracked a chassis.
This, combined with the jewelry debate and perceived continuing inconsistencies in sporting sanctioning decisions, has led to tensions between the F1 field and officials.
When asked to rate FIA refereeing so far in 2022, Alonso, who raged over his Miami penalty before backtracking after talks with President Mohammed Beb Sulayem, led the discussion.
“I have full confidence in the FIA president, yes,” Alonso said. “That would be my answer.
“[But] right now maybe [decisions are] a bit rough. We saw few things at the start of the year that weren’t as consistent as we wanted or asked for. I think there is room for improvement, yes.
“But I have full confidence in the FIA president. So he will fix the things that need to be fixed.”
Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1 Team, during the drivers’ press conference
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc said: “I would like to see more consistency, that’s where we need to improve. Whether it’s improved or not, I don’t know, but as Fernando said, there is room for improvement and now we just have to make things better.”
Lewis Hamilton said “we have to trust that they will continue to improve” and that he thinks “it’s about collaboration”.
He added: “Generally I think a good job has been done so far. It will get better. We are trying to work with the FIA.”
“From Mohammed – I think it’s a huge role, big shoes to fill, and we just have to give him time.
“There are a lot of things he wants to do and a lot of things he wants to change. I believe from what he has told us he will do.”
Vettel acknowledged for drivers “it’s always difficult sometimes [when] you have to face decisions that [sometimes] you understand and agree and sometimes you don’t understand”.
“But that’s also kind of the nature of the sport,” he continued. “It’s not always a black and white decision. For us, you can always improve and there are always things you can learn.”
Officials including FIA Race Director Niels Wittich, Safety Car Driver Bernd Maylander inspect the track
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
On the specific issue of alternating race directors, which Haas driver Kevin Magnussen said made it “harder to really understand what the rules are”, George Russell said it was “too early to judge”.
“Obviously both race directors are new to the role and with any new role you need time to settle in,” Vettel’s GPDA director continued.
“We are seven races in – five and two races each [for Wittich and Freitas respectively].
“I think we have to have this open dialogue between the drivers, the race directors, or the team managers or the race directors.
“We are obviously the only 20 drivers within the race cars who have an idea of what the race tracks look like – what needs to be done to improve safety to improve racing and whatever.
“And we have to have that open relationship to move the sport forward in all directions. And I think it will take a few more races.
“But hopefully we’ll all be on the same page sooner rather than later.”
Speaking at an earlier press conference ahead of the opening practice of the Baku race this weekend, alongside Russell, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas suggested: “A [race director] would be better than two or three”
“That’s my feeling,” he added. “[Having] the same person in every race, you always have the same person to chat with if they have been in all the previous races and have taken all the feedback into account and somehow know our point of view.
“That’s my opinion. I think one would be better.”