David Coulthard senses ‘disconnect’ between teams, Liberty and FIA

Thomas Maher
Japanese Grand Prix race start. Suzuka, October 2022. budget cap results wet weather

Japanese Grand Prix race start. Suzuka, October 2022.

Former F1 racer turned broadcaster David Coulthard believes more joined-up thinking is needed in F1, for the benefit of the fans.

David Coulthard, the former McLaren and Red Bull veteran who is now a leading man on Channel 4’s coverage of F1, believes that the teams, the governing body the FIA, and the sport’s owners Liberty Media, all need to work better together for the betterment of the sport.

Coulthard has urged all the parties involved to start becoming more harmonious in the way they communicate with each other, in the aftermath of a dramatic Japanese Grand Prix – a race where the drama was caused more by off-track bureaucracy rather than the on-track action.

Aside from the weekend having a shadow cast over it by the FIA’s delay to announcing the results of their 2021 budget cap analysis, the race was red-flagged early on due to the wet weather – while Race Control came in for criticism as a result of a recovery tractor going out on the circuit before all the cars were fully neutralised.

This was followed by Max Verstappen winning the race and, due to a post-race penalty being applied to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, wrapping up the title. However, no one seemed to be actually aware of the possibility this could happen, as even the World Champion’s team were unaware of a unique piece of wording in the rulebook that meant full race points would be awarded, despite only just over half the race distance being completed.

It led to something of an anti-climactic title decider, and Coulthard said the sport failed in its duty to entertain during the Suzuka weekend.

Rain coming down at the Suzuka circuit. Japan, October 2017.
Rain makes for a drab scene at the Suzuka circuit. Japan, October 2017.

“There’s a much bigger picture here – I say that with all due respect to budget caps and conversations about whether GP cars can go racing in the rain,” he told Channel 4.

“We are in the entertainment business. Last week, we knowingly sat waiting for the tide to go out before the boat was launched – we knew the rain was coming – that was a little bit silly.

“And, yes, what happened after the race keeps people engaged and gives us all something to talk about. But, in pure sporting terms, it’s bad.”

Coulthard praised the direction F1 has taken in 2022, with a move to a ground-effect philosophy formula resulting in more on-track racing.

“F1 has taken a step forward with the new regulations. The drivers are able to run more closely together – we are seeing better racing,” he said.

“That’s not always been the case historically in a sport dominated by aerodynamics. The more we continue down that road, I believe F1 will be in a better place.

“But I think there is still a disconnect between the teams, the commercial rights holder Liberty, and the FIA. It still doesn’t seem as if that three-way relationship is as harmonious as it could be.

“And better communication among them is the way to serve our fans.”

David Coulthard wants to see less ambiguous results at the chequered flag

The Scot made the point that the way F1 has gone, fans are no longer able to safely assume that the result they see at the chequered flag will be the actual confirmed result – a weakness he says that needs to be addressed.

An example of this, aside from Leclerc in Japan, was Sergio Perez’s race win in Singapore the previous weekend. The Mexican driver had to face the stewards for a Safety Car infringement, which could have dropped him behind Leclerc – instead, he was given a five-second time penalty and held on to his win.

“Sometimes we have been waiting hours to get a result from the stewards. I know there has to be a fair process,” said Coulthard.

“But people switched off their televisions and computers all around the world last week and went to bed before the official result was announced.

“That can’t be right. When the whistle blows at full-time in a football match. There are no appeals afterward about the result. That’s it.

“Yes, there has to be an appeals process – if an engine was outside the regulations – that can be taken up afterward. It’s not a sporting issue.

“The fans should be able to trust that the referee, assistant referee, and VAR have got it right on the day.”

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