F1 needs unbiased stewards, says Hamilton: 'Some are very very good friends with drivers'

F1

More reform is needed in F1 race direction, says Lewis Hamilton, who called for unbiased stewards and more female officials

Lewis-Hamilton-in-BArcelona-pitlane-during-2022-F1-testing

Hamilton took a peek at rivals; cars as testing got underway in Barcelona

Peter J Fox/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton has added fuel to the ongoing debate about how Formula 1 is refereed by suggesting that some stewards have shown a bias.

The seven-time world champion referenced the driver stewards, who rotate from a pool of available candidates between each race, but without singling out anyone in particular.

Hamilton’s claim came on the heels of last week’s confirmation from new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem that race director Michael Masi had lost his job, and would be replaced in 2022 by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who will share the role.

Ben Sulayem specified other initiatives, such as the introduction of a VAR-style remote race control and an end to radio lobbying from the pit wall, although he didn’t reference any changes to how the stewards operate.

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“I want to see more women in the stewards’ room,” said Hamilton. “I think maybe last year there were one or two, and I think it’ll be awesome for them to have a male and female as the two race directors, the two race directors they are talking about doing. And just I think there’s a great way of promoting diversity.”

A little later he said: “I just want to add we need to make sure we get non-biased stewards too. Race drivers, some very, very good friends with certain individuals, some travel with certain individuals, and tend to take a more keen liking to some of them.

“I think [we need] just people who have just no biasness and are super central when it comes to making decisions.”

However Hamilton’s own team boss Toto Wolff downplayed any suggestions of bias.

“There shouldn’t be a lot of room to interpret the rules. There shouldn’t be a lot of, how can I say, leniency”

“I think we need professionalism in the stewards’ room,” said the Austrian. “I don’t think there is a conscious bias to be honest, it’s intelligent people.

“But most important is whenever we talk about the race direction, the support that they will have back at base, or the stewards, there need to be a standard. This is what we deserve.

“And this is what everybody expects. And I think there’s some very good people that we can build upon. Most important, and we all have talked about it last year, was the topic of encountering inconsistency.

“And there shouldn’t be a lot of room to interpret the rules. There shouldn’t be a lot of, how can I say, leniency, depending on what the potential outcome might be.

“But the rules are the rules. I think as everything is being restructured I have faith in Mohammed [Ben Sulayem] that going forward, we will optimise all theses structures.”

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Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said the fault lay more with the rules and the way they are written.

“I think a lot of issues are to do with the regulations themselves,” said Horner. “Because you’ve got very complicated regulations that then leave room for interpretation. I think the circuit limits one is an obvious one, in any other sport being over a white line, you’re out. And you have a situation like we have currently where some corners, it’s okay, some corners it isn’t.

“I think that for the fans, even for the teams and for the drivers, is confusing. So what you need is clear rules, which are then easier to police. Now, we’ve all been on the receiving end of stewards’ decisions that we’ve been unhappy about.

“I would agree with Toto that I don’t think there’s an intended bias. I’m not aware of any stewards travelling with drivers to races.

“And in Mohammed, we have a new president that is looking to bolster the structure, and to bring in the equivalent of a VAR. It’s something that that suddenly the top teams have have available to them.

“And I think giving a better infrastructure for clearer decisions with clearer regulations is something that should be strived for. But I certainly don’t think that there was any bias from stewards during the last seasons.”

Max Verstappen overtakes Lewis Hamilton off track in the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Track limit controversies marred the 2021 season

Grand Prix Photo

Hamilton’s fellow drivers Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo stressed that what as a group they would primarily like to see is consistency, while acknowledging that it’s not always possible for decisions to be black and white.

“I think it’s in the nature of our sport, it’s not like football where everything is lot clearer,” said Perez. “Here, every incident is very different, and it’s very hard for the stewards to make decisions, but I think as long as we can have consistency within the stewards, to have them more consistently in the races the same people.

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“I think we also have to support the new race director that comes in, because it obviously takes time. It’s in the nature of our sport that it’s always a debate, it’s not as straightforward as other sports.”

“As Checo says, it’s never that easy as well,” said Ricciardo. “Because also you’ve then got, I think probably amongst all of us drivers, we’re probably in line with what we think is like, let’s say, the way to go racing, but there will still be a bit of a difference of also, what’s kind of forcing.

“Even between us, it’s not always that straightforward. So it’s not a not an easy job. But I think if there is, at least, that kind of level of consistency, then that’s all we can ask. And then we know, a little bit better, let’s say what’s right from wrong.”