With Nico Hulkenberg penalised for causing a collision when there was, according to Guenther Steiner “no collision”, Haas’ team boss has reignited the debate over permanent stewards in Formula 1.
Hulkenberg was hit with a five-second time penalty for “causing a collision” at last Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix when he tangled with the Williams of Logan Sargeant. However, replays of the incident are unclear as to whether the German did actually make contact with the American’s car.
The stewards ruled it was a case of “causing a collision” and added that he was “unable to control the car – and [since he] was not forced there by any other car, this does not get the benefit of the doubt of a first-lap incident”.
They, however, spoke of “the inside of Turn 6” where Hulkenberg did have brief contact with the other Williams of Alex Albon at the Hotel hairpin, but not Sargeant.
Steiner disagrees with the call, especially as the stewards couldn’t even decide where the alleged contact was.
“Good question. I’d like to find out!” he joked as per The Race. “Because nobody can explain to me. I just have two emails at the moment, I tried to look at pictures and I think there was no collision.
“I just looked at the picture, and Nico comes from the inside, and is in front basically, dives into the corner… but I cannot see a collision. I’m still trying to… collision is touching, no? That’s what the definition is.
“We’re still trying to find out, I’m still arguing it. Not arguing – but I try to get it explained because I think it was completely wrong. It’s Lap 1, there was no collision and, in the end, what should we make, a parade? Because it’s Monte Carlo. It’s Monte Carlo.
“This has consequences. Lap 1, we get a penalty for what I think is not a collision. There are other people running into each other, during the race, they [Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz] get a black-and-white flag. I think it’s very inconsistent.
“Then we look at the accident in Miami between [Nyck] De Vries and [Lando] Norris. In that one, that was no collision? It’s like, ‘guys…’. And if a collision is because you attack somebody, and he reacts to it, why would we get a penalty for that?
“I still don’t understand it. I was told [that], in the video, you can see a collision, I looked at numerous pictures and I cannot see a collision. And if somebody wants to tell me there is a collision… how can you be sure of a collision, and if you don’t know if it is one or not, what is it then?
“‘Innocent until proven guilty’, not ‘guilty until I prove innocent’, in my opinion! That is how law works, in my opinion.”
It’s not the first time the 58-year-old has called for F1 to find a better stewarding system.
“We need a different system for stewards,” he continued.
“Because every professional sport has professionals being referees and stuff like this. F1 is one of the biggest sports in the world, and we still have laymen deciding on the fate of people which invest millions into their careers.
“And it’s always a discussion, because there’s no consistency. And again, I don’t want to blame any particular person on this, but if you’re not all there all the time, it’s just like a job every… it’s not even a job. In a job you can get sacked! Because you get paid, and if you do a bad job, you get sacked.
“You cannot get sacked, because you don’t get paid. I think we need to step it up. I think that’s now time. We’re discussing this for years and years. And we always go back to this.
“And every other sport has professional referees. American racing – NASCAR, IndyCar – how many times do you hear problems with the stewards or with the race director’s decision? Very rarely. Very rarely.
“But they are doing it completely differently. There’s full-time people working there. And I’m always saying, innocent until proven guilty. And not that I have to be proven that I was innocent. Because that doesn’t work for me. That’s now how I conduct life.”
F1, though, has always opposed the idea as the powers-that-be fear there won’t be independence amongst permanent stewards.
“What is ‘independent’?” asked Steiner. “Can you be independent if you’re employed? Yes. Is the race director employed? Yes. So why does it work for him and not for a steward?
“It’s the same thing. These are easy answers in my book. And we’ve got a referee in football, he’s full-time, that’s what they do, as a full-time job. Thirty years ago we had the local bakery guy being referee, but that has changed.
“It’s true! They changed it, because needed to be professional, and they are responsible. And a referee, if they make one or two mistakes, they disappear. You don’t see them anymore. They are going back to the bakery, I think.”
He later added: “I think it wouldn’t harm if we didn’t have these discussions [so often]. I go back to other sports. Nobody has got as many issues as we have got, talking about these things. Any other sport.
“Maybe I’m ignorant. Maybe there is a sport where they’ve got these issues, but I don’t think there’s any other sport where it always comes up. Because it’s not only me or us, it comes up continuously. We never seem to be at peace with this, for years now.”