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GP Week : Issue 102
FEATURE >> year by the presence of the ex-drivers, so if an incident occurs the Race Director sends for an investigation or the stewards will do this on their own volition. The penalty applied, if any, comes only from the stewards but the start of the procedure is instantaneous and the communication is via radio. The Race director, stewards and Clerk of the Course are linked via radio transmission. Many times, though, the whole procedure is under fire – most notably this year in the European GP when Hamilton passed the Safety Car and the penalty applied came late on the race. What happened then? There was no TV evidence showing clearly enough that Hamilton had passed the SC and so Race Control asked for aerial shots from the helicopter which was filming the race (and acting as a satellite projector) for FOM. The case ‘opened’ when the evidence arrived and thus the penalty was given and applied. Same thing in the Belgian GP, when Felipe Massa wasn’t correctly positioned at the start. Race Control as well as the grid marshals missed that and so Felipe, on this occasion, was not subsequently penalised. In a sport as convoluted as F1, many parameters can, and do go wrong. How many times have you heard the quote “Check with Charlie please”? The Race Director can give his opinion on something but it’s down to the stewards to take or not take any action. In the next room, then, sit the stewards. They are selected at the start of each year and the FIA defines the logistics. And so we have an incident! The Race Director or the stewards trigger an investigation. The Race Director sends out a notice to be evaluated with or without mentioning the violation or the penalty that should apply. The stewards look into an incident themselves. In the same room with the stewards there is also a technician, responsible for operating the technical equipment available to the stewards. What can they see during the investigation? Very simple: everything. From cars’ telemetry down to intra-team communications, and from a simple FOM replay down to all shots of the incident from all available cameras (onboard, track cameras and all FOM cameras). Everything they want, they “order”. The investigation of an incident and a potential penalty could cost someone a championship, or a race win, so justice must be absolute. In front of them are TV screens showing the FOM (or host) plus other camera feeds, the live timing provided as also other GPS system. The incidents are checked, one after another. All stewards are looking at the same incident and the majority of the decisions are unanimous. They look at the incidents as they are coming in, in chronological order. Some of them require deeper investigation, such the Lewis Hamilton’s SC infringement in Valencia; and thus Nico Rosberg seemed to be penalised too late in Singapore in 2008. Imagine now this whole procedure working during all the Free Practices, Qualifying sessions and the Race. Imagine the tension during race time, when teams ask for clarifications, Race Control oversees the race and the Clerk of the Course organises all the track personnel; imagine, finally, the stewards in the midst of all this, with the power to have the last word on all occasions. Things go well...and these behind-the- scenes professionals are quickly forgotten. Things get complicated...and they are square in the eye of the hurricane. Applying justice, as fairly and unequivocally as the system allows. 43