Deafening silence over Andretti, a scrutineering issue and more FOM-FIA questions

Sam Cooper
Mohammed Ben Sulayem and Stefano Domenicali

Mohammed Ben Sulayem and Stefano Domenicali are the leading figures of their respective organisations.

After we asked each of the 10 F1 teams one question for the year ahead, we have widened our net to the FIA and FOM.

The two parties are the most powerful entities in Formula 1 with one controlling the commercial arm and the other the rules, but 2023 was not a perfect year for either.

F1 may be booming but as always, there are still improvements that can be made.

Questions for Formula One Management

What happens with Andretti?

The Andretti story is one that has rumbled on for over a year now and right now, we do not have an idea of how far along the process they are.

The most recent news came in October when the FIA gave their green light for Andretti to arrive on the grid but that was always going to be the easier of the two tasks. The harder part is convincing Formula 1 that they should be allowed.

There are pros and cons in F1’s mind with teams concerned of a loss of revenue but the majority of fans appear to be for it and the sport’s commercial arm needs to make a decision one way or another sooner rather than later.

What is the future of the sprints?

Another burning question is what happens to sprints.

FOM was clear that they recognised changes needed to be made to the format after a record six events in 2023 and backlash especially from the likes of Max Verstappen.

But months on from that, F1 has not revealed any of its plans to fix the format.

Given the time and effort that has gone into it, it is unlikely they will give up on the concept entirely but a better way of doing it needs to be found if sprints are to survive.

Are 24 races sustainable?

2024 will see an almighty effort from anyone working in F1 with a record 24 races scheduled over the course of 281 days.

But while driver burnout is the most talked about risk, there are plenty of others within an F1 team that will feel it more.

The kilometre distance for a member of staff required at every race will be in the tens of thousands and while the very senior figures like Toto Wolff can afford to skip a few races here and there, there are others who do not get that luxury.

There is also a cost element. Of course every team would like to have a reserve list of staff members to divide the races up but with a cost cap in place, that is simply not possible.

2023, with 23 races, was already a challenge and one that left plenty of employees run down by the end of it but 2024 is another step and time will tell if it is one step too far.

Questions for both

Can driver safety be made a priority?

The 2023 Qatar Grand Prix was an embarrassing affair for anyone who claims to support driver welfare.

Logan Sargeant was forced to retire while Lance Stroll said he passed out going into corners and the cause of all this was the extreme heat.

Temperatures recorded in the desert were close to 50 degrees in the cockpit, according to George Russell, and then you add the many layers of fireproof clothing they must wear and it is easy to see why they were essentially sat in an oven.

Qatar will be later in the year this season, suggesting a repeat is unlikely, but it is high time F1 and the FIA introduced some safety protocols in the event of extreme conditions.

Whether that be a maximum temperature drivers can race at or whatever they choose, these drivers risk their lives just by racing so it is the sport’s job to minimise that risk as much as possible.

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Questions for the FIA

Will we have a repeat of the track limits affair?

You can pretty much guarantee that come July 1, the number one talking point in F1 will be track limits.

The reason for the date is that it is one day after the Austrian Grand Prix which was another farcical spectacle in 2023.

Hours after the race was over, the stewards were still looking into 1,200 separate incidents of alleged track limits and such was the frequency, they had to essentially rewrite the rules.

The result was an additional 12 track limits penalties to eight drivers that happened so long after the chequered flag that Lando Norris was back in the UK when he found out he was fourth, not fifth.

There has to be a better way of doing things and while a track like Austria is practically difficult to police, no one wants to see race results changed many hours after the cars have been packed up and gone home.

Can scrutineering be more equal?

On a similar note of races being decided long after they are over – Austin.

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc found themselves disqualified after their planks had been worn away too much in the race and while no one is arguing that was fair, what people do take issue with is the selective scrutineering.

Just four cars of the 20 were tested for plank wear and given 50 per cent of them failed, shouldn’t the rest have then been checked? At least check the team-mates of those drivers.

There are of course a number of factors why they were not checked but the number one reason is time. Austin was the first leg of a triple header meaning teams were eager to pack up and get to Mexico as quickly as possible.

But if it is a case of doing it properly or not doing it all, surely the FIA would prefer the former.

While it will undoubtedly take more time, ensuring each competitor is treated fairly justifies a delay.

What is the future of the FIA and Mohammed Ben Sulayem?

This week saw another major departure form the FIA with Tim Goss walking out the door to make it three exits within a month, leading to the question what is going on at the FIA?

It was not a good 2023 for the sporting body from Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s many declarations to their ill-advised investigation into Toto and Susie Wolff late in the year – so it would be wise for the FIA to seek a quieter season in 2024.

A good sporting board is neither seen nor heard and F1 would be better if the FIA went about their important job in the background.

As for Ben Sulayem, he too could do with a year out of the headlines.

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