Sorry, who is the Steward?
One of the controversial moments from this weekend surrounded Michael Schumacher’s robust defence against Lewis Hamilton – at one point the McLaren driver was even forced on to the grass at the Curva Grande so as to avoid a collision. There was similar moment for Sebastian Vettel who was clearly not entirely happy with Fernando Alonso in his post race press conference. In the end, with Hamilton repeatedly complaining to his team, Ross Brawn came on Schumacher’s radio to advise him to “be more careful” and “make room” for Hamilton. Did Schumacher overstep the mark though? More worryingly, however, seems to be the question of who decides…
At the time, many thought Ross Brawn had sensibly tried to stop Schumacher from going too far off his own back. On the BBC commentary, however, it was quickly suggested that Brawn was simply passing on a message from the authorities given that Brawn himself passed on the message and not Schumacher’s race engineer. It turns out that that was the case as race control warned Brawn but it was still interpreted as meaning that the stewards thought it was tough driving but didn’t quite overstep the mark.
However, it seems that the stewards were never actually involved in the discussion. Instead, race control themselves handled the entire situation. That’s right, they never, in fact, passed it on to the stewards who in Monza consisted of ex-Formula One driver Derek Daly, very experienced steward Paul Gutjahr and FIA trainee stewards graduate Silvia Bellot.
Essentially we have a situation where Charlie Whiting is making the stewarding decisions himself. Is that right? I suppose the familiar analogy is the policeman giving a warning rather than charging someone with a crime, they do act as judge.
However, Derek Daly’s revelation in a tweet this evening that “Schumi should have had penalty for blocking in Monza – we blew it – Agh” has to make you question the way the system works. Should Whiting be the one making these decisions when there is a panel of stewards allocated to each race? The police analogy is irrelevant when the judge and jury is actually on hand. It’s not as if they were overworked during the Italian Grand Prix (Paul Gutjahr was part of the team who forgot to deal with Rubens Barrichello’s steering wheel throwing incident at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix as they were distracted by Schumacher’s late safety car pass.)
However you feel about Schumacher’s driving, the people who have the final say on whether it was right or wrong were not offered the chance to do so. In Italy, Jean Todt’s claim of more open stewarding took yet another step backwards.
Credit: Mercedes GP Petronas