FIA announce changes following review into Japanese Grand Prix incidents

Jamie Woodhouse
The FIA Mercedes Safety Car leads Max Verstappen, a lot of spray. Japan October 2022

The FIA Mercedes Safety Car leads Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, a lot of spray. Japan October 2022

The FIA will axe its rotating race director system and revisit the wording of the Sporting Regulations after a review of incidents at Suzuka.

It was a dramatic Japanese Grand Prix as Formula 1 made its return to Suzuka, though not for the right seasons in multiple instances.

After the race began with a standing start on a wet track, several collisions would cause the race to be red flagged, Pierre Gasly replacing his front wing with an advertising board as he got caught up in the carnage.

The far more concerning moment arrived though as Gasly, while visibility was extremely low, drove past a recovery vehicle on the track which was attending to the stricken Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, the race under Safety Car conditions at this stage.

Then there was confusion after the race as Verstappen was crowned 2022 World Champion, much to the surprise of pretty much everybody.

With only 29 laps completed, it was expected that the reduced number of points for 50-75% race distance would be implemented as part of a ruling in response to the 2021 Belgian GP washout, but as the race continued to its conclusion after the red flag delay, full points were in fact awarded.

The FIA subsequently announced that a review of the events of Suzuka would take place, this review also receiving the input of Grand Prix Drivers’ Association director George Russell and Gasly among other drivers.

Although the FIA has ruled that all procedures were followed correctly with the deployment of the recovery vehicles, Gasly’s approaching presence was not initially detected as he travelled at speeds over 200km/h as he reached the scene, for which the Frenchman expressed regret.

Nonetheless, it has been noted that with hindsight, the deployment of recovery vehicles onto the track should have been delayed. Recovery vehicles will now only be allowed on track once all cars are aligned behind the Safety Car.

Moving forward, the FIA has announced multiple procedural changes.

In addition, it has also been confirmed that the FIA will do away with rotating its race director for the remainder of the season.

‘From the United States Grand Prix in Austin and the following races in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, Niels Wittich will assume the position of Race Director with the support of Race Control staff,’ the FIA reports.

Also noted by the FIA is that ‘performance of the wet weather tyres in extreme conditions was discussed’, that analysis ongoing between the FIA’s Technical Department and Pirelli.

The extreme wet Pirelli tyres have drawn criticism, Verstappen perhaps the most vocal as he offered to take part in testing sessions to help Pirelli create better compounds.

As for the clarity surrounding the awarding of points, the FIA states that ‘Article 6.5 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations which covers race time limit and points distribution was applied correctly’ at Suzuka. Though the next review of the Sporting Regulations will seek to bring further clarity to the wording.

Start of the Japanese GP. Suzuka October 2022.

The FIA has confirmed that the following additional measures will be put in place as of the United States Grand Prix:

  • Information to be provided to the Teams by means of a message via the official messaging system and communicated via the FIA intercom system to notify teams that a recovery vehicle is on track with the obligation from the Teams to inform their Drivers.
  • Development of a live VSC/SC monitoring window to display the status of all cars, on track, behind SC, in PITS to be used by Race Control and the ROC.
  • Race Control Procedure Update to better define the allocation of tasks across the Race Control team (including delegation of monitoring tasks to ROC as required) under SC or VSC procedure. In specific relation to this review, the delegation of monitoring of cars entering the Pit Lane under SC conditions and the consequent length of the SC train.
  • The FIA Race Director will hold a review of the incidents in Suzuka during the United States Grand Prix Drivers’ Briefing to explain what solutions the FIA plans to introduce to avoid a repeat of the situation in the future and to remind the Drivers of the rules relating to Safety Cars and Red Flags.
  • Dynamic VSC: implementation of a new function that would change the delta speed required for the driver to follow before and in the sectors where there is an incident, this would aid the drivers to know where incidents have been declared.
  • In conjunction with the teams, a review of penalty precedents for drivers not respecting the rules relating to Yellow, Double Yellow, VSC and SC conditions will take place.
  • Assessment of the current application of advertising boards, their construction, location and materials used to avoid the potential for them to being torn off and thrown on track.

Read more: The key storylines to emerge from the United States GP press conferences