14 June 2019

The definition of insanity...

Since the kerfuffle in Canada, I have read a number of people suggesting that the rules should be changed and that the system of stewarding should be altered. This makes no real sense to me because the current system is the result of years of quiet development, with other systems having been tried and rejected, along the way once their faults were established.

The current system is a result of that trial and error and as we know the definition of insanity, coined by Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. One suggestion is that there should be a permanent steward (or set of stewards). Well, first of all there already is a set of permanent stewards. There are four of them and they take it in turns to be stewards. They exchange reports on all decisions and work hard to ensure that decisions are consistent. They are currently American Tim Mayer, Australia’s Garry Connelly, Singapore’s Nish Shetty and the German Gerd Ennser. When it comes to the driver representative the list is similarly short with Briton Derek Warwick, Italy’s Emanuele Pirro, American Danny Sullivan, Finland’s Mika Salo, and Denmark’s Tom Kristensen sharing the duties, with occasional appearances by others including France’s Yannick Dalmas.

The system of a permanent steward was tried twice before. The first time was as long ago as 1992 when former Lotus F1 team boss Peter Warr was appointed to the role. It lasted just one season because of inevitable complaints from the continental teams (mainly Ferrari) that Warr was favouring the British-based teams. I don’t think there was much evidence to back up that claim but such are the paranoias involved. It was tried again in 2006 when the FIA appointed Tony Scott-Andrews in the role, as it sought to improve the consistency of decision-making and ensured that the other stewards had a greater awareness of the F1 scene. Scott-Andrews did a good job and earned himself the reputation of being both independent and sensible, but some of the decisions did not please the FIA and he was replaced after a couple of years with the stewards being “advised” by Alan Donnelly, the personal representative in F1 of the FIA President. That was never going to work… and did not last long.

There are still a few of what might be termed “grace and favour” stewards (otherwise known as FIA Steward 2) who are important political players in the FIA, but in general terms these individuals are also well-versed in the rule book and keep up to speed with the developments. This position is also used to train up new chief stewards as there is now a policy which means the all officials have to retire at 75. The fourth steward is known as the ASN steward and is the local representative, a role that also helps to provide experience for rising stars before they move into international roles. Today there is a similar situation in Formula 2 and again this is useful training.

Thus the system that is in place is one that has been developed using trial and error and it would not be logical to go and try systems that have failed in the past, in the hope that they will work this time.

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