Christian Horner has defended the way the FIA have gone about stewarding races this season, despite ongoing worries about “the odd bump in the carpet” around their decision-making.
Race stewarding came under the microscope at the end of last season in the wake of the final laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that saw one of the most controversial conclusions to a year in Formula 1 history.
The sport’s governing body then ensured steps were taken to clarify the rules of engagement and their own way of running races from this year onwards as a result.
Red Bull team principal Horner says concerns will always remain surrounding decisions in races, but was keen to highlight just how popular the sport has become – and Formula 1 as a whole is on the right trajectory, stewarding and race direction aside.
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“Always, but you have to worry about the things you can control, not the things you can’t,” Horner told GPFans when asked if there is still frustration with the stewards this season.
“There will always be frustrations, but you just have to deal with it and get on with it.
“I think the sport has never been in better health. Wherever we go, there are record sell-out crowds. The viewing figures are through the roof.
“Interest in the sport is at an all-time high, the product’s great and the racing is strong. I think generally we are going in the right direction. Of course, there’s the odd bump in the carpet but it’s only to be expected.”
Mercedes driver George Russell spoke after the Austrian Grand Prix about his frustrations surrounding his five-second penalty for colliding with Sergio Perez on the opening lap, but acknowledged how difficult it is to be a steward and simply called for “consistency” where possible.
Horner, meanwhile, referenced the changes made to the FIA’s infrastructure after their Abu Dhabi report was published.
“They have had big changes within their organisation in the last six months. It’s a work in progress. I’m sure they will sort it out,” he said.
“I think you will always want consistency [of decisions]. It’s the most important thing. It’s easy to underestimate the roles these guys do.
“Making sure they have the right support around them is vital.”
Has the FIA improved stewarding this season?
The controversy surrounding Abu Dhabi was always going to make the FIA think twice about making such interventions again, and their internal investigation proves they have made the effort to take steps to improve how they police races overall.
The infamous lapped cars debacle has now been ironed out in the regulations, and they have worked to try and make the rules more watertight – which has left less wiggle room for the race directors and stewards.
For consistency purposes then, this can only be a good thing for Formula 1 – but an element of stewarding and in-race incidents will always be subjective because that is just sport.
The rules of sports like football are supposedly iron-clad, but teams still get upset with the referee when decisions are made, which is only to be expected in the heat of the moment, and, like humans do, incorrect decisions will sometimes slip through the net – and Formula 1 will not be any different.
The FIA have clearly taken steps to ensure the biggest decisions will be made correctly every time, and the now clearer rules will always be followed in race direction.
Mistakes will still happen, but the governing body seem to have done as much as they can to improve in the short term.