Formula One race directors and the stewards have been a point of contention among the sport’s drivers, teams and the fan base, particularly after the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The race director at the time, Michael Masi, was removed from his role before the 2022 season began, and Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas filled his shoes. The move stemmed from the FIA's review of the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale, which resulted in Max Verstappen not only winning but also being dubbed world champion.
Although a new era has begun in Formula One, there have been moments the stewards and race directors have arguably fallen short. Fernando Alonso highlighted incidents at Miami where the stewards “were not very professional” and that he has not seen any improvement from the FIA this season.
“We saw a couple of things already that proves that we still need to improve a lot,” the Alpine driver said ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix. “Racing is… I mean, you need to have some knowledge about racing, before being a Race Director, or try to monitor a race. And I don’t think that that knowledge is in place at the moment.”
He directly referenced how Freitas has more experience with the World Endurance Championship. Wittich, though, was the race director for the Miami Grand Prix.
“Even the accidents that we had in Miami, you know, with Carlos [Sainz] and Esteban [Ocon]. We pushed to have some barriers there and some tyres or Tecpro, whatever, and no-one did anything,” Alonso said. “So, when you don’t have that knowledge of racing, it’s difficult to talk.”
Sainz and Ocon crashed in the same turn just a day apart in two different practice sessions, and Ocon revealed to Autosport that the Ferrari driver mentioned the matter during the driver’s briefing and asked why there was not a Tecpro barrier in the turn.
“What is unacceptable really, it was 51G for what should have been not such a big impact,” Ocon said, per Autosport. “To not have it and [for only] one car it has happened, but when Carlos has complained to the race director, we were all there listening to it, and nothing has been done.
“There was a discussion last night. Carlos said the impact was way too big for what it should have been. Today it felt huge, the impact. It’s probably the biggest shunt of my career, to be fair.
“Yesterday Carlos got hurt. I got hurt today as well. The FIA should push harder for our safety. The important thing is that we’re able to race, and I will be able to race as well.”
Come Sunday’s race, the two were still feeling the after effects of the crash.
Alonso also called out how the stewards handled his penalty. He initially finished eighth at the end of the Miami Grand Prix before a five-second penalty due to his collision with Pierre Gasly dropped him to ninth. But his falling in the results did not end there. FIA stewards handed the two-time champion another five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
However, Alpine argued that its driver gave back any advantage gained, lifting off of the throttle.
“They saw the pink color, and yeah, they took the decision without asking any proofs. So we arrive after the race with all the proofs, and all the time back that we gave, and they were just packing up,” Alonso said. “They were not even in the room. So here, we came there, we show them all the data. So they said ‘give us five minutes’. And then they found themselves with the hands tied, probably because they issue already the penalty. And they didn’t know how to get back from that document. So it was it was very bad.
“And honestly, I mean, it’s already the past, but it is something that should not happen in in Formula One, you know, with professionalism, and the standards that Formula One has right now.”
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