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Sorry, who is the Steward?

By Mav | 13 Sep 2011 | 33 Comments | 3,074 views

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…
 
Mercedes GP Petronas
 
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

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33 Comments »

  • saltire

    I think you are assuming that the stewards were never given the chance to look at the incident but the tweet does not say that. It could be construed that Daly thought one thing and was over-ruled by the other three stewards it depends on who the “we” are. Is that we (the stewards) who blew it or the FIA’s representatives (Whiting or Blach) who made the mistake?

    I think the tweet is too ambiguous to make that leap in the dark that the incident was never passed on to the stewards to decide upon but kudos for the conspiracy theory.

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  • Mav (author)

    saltire,

    It was race control who warned Brawn, not the stewards, as Martin Brundle stated on Sunday evening.

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  • Kimster

    This has happened before when Lewis Hamilton was given a warning by Charlie Whiting in 2010 Malaysia for his weave on Petrov. So this isn’t a stand alone incident.

    The stewards can investigate whatever they want and Brundle stated that on Twitter along with the aforementioned tweet.

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  • saltire

    Mav,

    Yes that’s true but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the stewards were not involved, it could be that they were informed, told a warning had been given and chose to take no further action. How would we know whether they were informed or not? it’s not like the FIA have revealed details of the steward decisions for the race weekend to the general public.

    There are many automated systems to assist Whiting decide when to pass incidents to the stewards (I blogged about it for Swap Shop on JordanF1’s blog http://jdkallen.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/anything-but-transparent/) but it is still ultimately Whiting’s decision. How many times have we heard on team radio transmissions that X team principal has asked Charlie Whiting for his opinion on whether a driver should give back a place he gained by cutting a corner? Would you advocate that all stewarding decisions are automated and there is no human input at all?

    Are we really getting into the old “Ferrari International Assistance” conspiracy theory that there’s some sort of favouritism towards Schumacher?

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  • Mav (author)

    This has happened before when Lewis Hamilton was given a warning by Charlie Whiting in 2010 Malaysia for his weave on Petrov.

    The stewards issued the penalty didn’t they? That’s what I thought and I can’t find anything that says otherwise.

    Similarly, if Schumacher had been warned by the stewards they would use the black/white flag, not Ross Brawn.

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  • Mav (author)

    Would you advocate that all stewarding decisions are automated and there is no human input at all?

    I believe the stewards are human

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  • Mav (author)

    Are we really getting into the old “Ferrari International Assistance” conspiracy theory that there’s some sort of favouritism towards Schumacher?

    Calm down dear, I’m asking why the race director is making the stewarding decisions, rather than the stewards. Not saying it was the wrong or correct decision. After the Hamilton-Petrov incident, Whiting told the drivers he would refer all suggestion of blocking to the stewards to investigate – instead he’s now made himself the judge.

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  • Mav (author)

    There are many automated systems to assist Whiting decide when to pass incidents to the stewards

    I still don’t know what this has to do with anything. If Whiting thought a warning was necessary then he thought Schumacher was doing something wrong – so why on earth not pass it on to the stewards to give a warning or whatever? That’s their sole job!

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  • Mav (author)

    …but kudos for the conspiracy theory.

    What conspiracy theory? I actually think a warning was appropriate, what seems out of order is whiting issuing it and not the stewards.

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  • saltire

    Calm down dear

    Thanks, I do love being talked down to!

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  • Mav (author)

    Thanks, I do love being talked down to!

    I love being accused of a crackpot Ferrari conspiracy theory when I haven’t suggested bias at any point!

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  • Kimster

    Mav,

    Stewards didn’t issue it. This was 2010, when he got away with a warning which Charlie issued and the rule was clarified at the following race (By Charlie).

    “I think the ruling was fair at the race and Charlie – I believe he took a fair decision and gave us a warning for that not to happen again,” Hamilton added.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8626957.stm

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  • Kimster

    Ah I remember, it was Johnny Herbert that said it (He was the driver steward that weekend.

    Here is the quote “I was on the board of race stewards in Malaysia as the drivers’ representative, but the decision to warn Hamilton did not come from us, it came from Charlie Whiting, the race director.”

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  • Kimster

    So, basically, there is no conspiracy being talked about. There is no conspiracy going on and everything is sweet and lovely in the world.

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  • Jules

    What’s wrong with these British stewards? What a bunch of whiners and hippocrites..Just because the baby Hamilton could not get past the German old fox, you guys are trying to make it sound like Schuey was bullying him..this is F1 not some baby carting. It’s tough and dangerous and if Lewis cannot handle it, he shoudl just back off and not try to overtake. Schuey was just too good for him. Period. Trying to win a race by giving penalties is bad for the sport. Win it on the track!

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  • largeflowered

    I don’t want to stir up the conspiracy theory stuff but it struck me that there were a number of curious incidents at Monza that seemed to have been brushed under the Astro Turf. No doubt about it, it was a very entertaining race with loads of on-track racing drama and surprisingly little off-track debacle EXCEPT for the Hamilton/Schumacher blocking discussions afterwards. Ok, I know I’m probably just being paranoid but I’m slightly concerned that the apparent racing is now purely for entertainment and advertising sponsors purposes. The championship is (all but) over, so where’s the glory in coming second? (Yes I know there are financial rewards and team seats at stake etc)

    But some I’m left with some niggling questions: Why didn’t LH kick up more of a fuss about the blocking incidents? How did JB manage to sail past so easily when he finally closed up on the back of LH/MS? Did MS let Button past in response to the team radio communications about leaving room for the car behind expecting that it would be Hamilton? Is it all stage managed (and by that I don’t mean choreographed) for PR purposes? What else is Charlie whispering in team managers’ ears?

    PS: I want to ‘believe’. I really do. ;)

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  • largeflowered

    OOPS! Second para – *omit first ’some’.

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  • Mav (author)

    How did JB manage to sail past so easily when he finally closed up on the back of LH/MS?

    LH was forced to back off by MS, and JB took advantage to pass his team mate.
    MS was the real pass but we’re only talking a metre or so difference – JB was alongside and it was too late for MS to fight for that position so he made sure LH didn’t follow through the gap. I think that could easily be explained by difference in tyre degradation, never mind the slightest of mistakes by MS, but I also wonder if MS had used up his KERS earlier in the lap when defending against LH.

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  • largeflowered

    but I also wonder if MS had used up his KERS earlier in the lap when defending against LH.

    Thanks for that. It does explain how JB then took off into the distance with so much ease, I suppose. Why was there such a massive difference in basic set up between LH and JB I wonder?

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  • Mav (author)

    Why was there such a massive difference in basic set up between LH and JB I wonder?

    I don’t think there was necessarily (not sure Lewis would let them after last year :-D )
    But LH had been behind MS for a while, damaging his tyres in the dirty air, getting them dirty off the racing line. JB then came up behind with tyres in a bit better condition – certainly good enough to make up that extra metre or two.

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  • Mav (author)

    …you guys are trying to make it sound like Schuey was bullying him.

    Where????

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  • Kimster

    Anyway, Whiting has done this before and will do it again. Whiting says the stewards have a right to investigate what they want at the time. Not 2 days after as Daly is tweeting.

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  • Mav (author)

    Anyway, Whiting has done this before and will do it again.

    But he shouldn’t, and he said he wouldn’t.

    Whiting says the stewards have a right to investigate what they want at the time. Not 2 days after as Daly is tweeting.

    Whiting is in no place to moan. They’re not working together. Whiting has a job to do and he should have passed it on to the stewards to review if he felt it wasn’t quite all right. Sure, the stewards missed it but Whiting is being deliberately obstructive by not bringing it to their attention – doesn’t he trust them to make the right call?

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  • Kimster

    Then teams have no right to ask Charlie for his opinion on matters. In his role as race director warnings and advice (Which is what he did) is well within his purview.

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  • Mav (author)

    Then teams have no right to ask Charlie for his opinion on matters.

    Of course they don’t – or they shouldn’t if incidents are brought to the stewards attention. Kimi-Lewis at Spa proved that.

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  • Kimster

    Charlie has also issue memos before/during the race even based on Sporting regs (And has plenty of history on technical regs). Anyway, the most important issue is that what he did was normal as his job as race director entails dealing with teams and complaints. He felt it wasn’t worth a referral to the stewards so noted the complaint with Mercedes who sorted the situation.

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  • Mav (author)

    He felt it wasn’t worth a referral to the stewards so noted the complaint with Mercedes who sorted the situation.

    If he felt he should comment on it to mercedes, it was worth referring to the stewards. If he thought it wasn’t worth referring to the stewards (he referred the Massa-Trulli incident) then he shouldn’t warn Mercedes.

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  • saltire

    Derek Daly admitted on “The Flying Lap” podcast that he heard Charlie Whiting warn Ross Brawn about Schumacher. In that case why wasn’t at least one steward looking to see what Charlie was complaining about?

    Daly said they were looking at another incident at that very moment when Whiting issued the warning but there’s nothing to have stopped them looking at it immediately after finishing with the Massa/Trulli incident or indeed after the race (how many times have we waited for hours after a race for stewards to give a time penalty?). Daly also conceeded that they didn’t have to be invited by Whiting to look at an incident and that they could investigate on their own if they saw something they didn’t like.

    Perhaps Whiting gave the warning because he knew he had asked the stewards to look at the other incident and in the expectation that having heard the warning they’d investigate Schumacher’s driving at the earliest opportunity. Is that why Daly said earlier in the day “We as stewards probably let Charlie down with this one.”?

    Having listened to Daly’s comments it seems clear that there is very little “on the job” training for new stewards. This incident makes a compelling case that only experienced stewards are used and that there should be some record keeper who draws their attention to other incidents that they may have missed whilst dealing with something else.

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  • Kimster

    Mav,

    Put it this way, if he shouldn’t say anything then a lot of things he normally does wouldn’t happen. As race director it fits into his job description. If we want to change what people do we might as well go the whole hog and say Jean Todt should be president of Matalan. Who knows, Mercedes might have even asked Charlie for an opinion. But Charlie has every right to give his opinion to the teams, and if the stewards didn’t want to investigate (They are separate entities as well) then so be it.

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  • Shone V

    I think what Mav is trying to say is not even if someone made a good or bad decision, or who made it. I think the real issue is that whole see/discuss/make decision/(not)give penalty thing is bit of blur.

    At least from what we see, it could be that the situation could be handled by the various people on different levels with various authorities, with no clear lines who should handle what. And if a driver of team gets penalty for something it could be decisive for that race or even more, but it could be missed if just someone else made a decision.
    And the fresh example is what we have now with Whiting/Daly. They obviously had (more or less) different opinions, and both had decision making power.

    It’s actually only good for Charlie and stewards, because they can always get an excuse that someone else could/should do it. No responsibility at all.

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  • str8y

    Schumacher didn’t deserve a penalty and didn’t get a penalty. Get over it. ;)

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  • Shone V

    str8y,

    Schumacher didn’t deserve a penalty and didn’t get a penalty. Get over it.

    You’re missing the point.

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  • Mav (author)

    You’re missing the point.

    They’d have to actually bother reading the article first. Heck, even the title might be a good start.

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