New VAR-style system on the way for Formula 1?

Mark Scott
VAR could be on the way to Formula 1

Referee Kevin Friend checks the pitch side VAR monitor before awarding a penalty to Liverpool during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London. Picture date: Sunday January 23, 2022.

Brace yourself…for video assistant referees (VAR), or a modified version of it, could form part of Formula 1’s plans to reform in 2022.

The clock is ticking on the FIA and Formula 1 to agree and implement changes on how the sport is to be governed and refereed in future following the hugely controversial title finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December 2021.

Race director Michael Masi has come in for a huge amount of criticism for the way he managed the closing stages of the race following a late crash by Williams driver Nicholas Latifi.

Masi’s decision to only allow the lapped cars between race leader Lewis Hamilton and second-placed Max Verstappen to unlap themselves, plus his implementation of the Safety Car rules have put his future as race director in serious doubt.

Those decisions created a scenario where Verstappen, having pitted for fresh tyres, was able to hunt down Hamilton, who had completely dominated the race up until this crucial point, and win his first World Championship title on the very last lap.

The FIA promised a full investigation into the season finale and their findings are due to be released on the eve of the 2022 Formula 1 season – March 18.

But, until that checkpoint, speculation over those findings and what new methods will be implemented are beginning to filter through the world of Formula 1.

One element that looks almost certain is the introduction of a new structure that will take all of the responsibilities of the race director and spread them out across multiple people rather than just one person being solely in charge.

And, according to German publication Motorsport-Magazin, that structure could include a central hub of video assistants that will help advise Race Control throughout a Formula 1 race week, much like a panel of officials do in football, feeding back and advising to the referees in the thick of the action.


Their report states: ‘The race management could grow in two dimensions. Up to now, race control has only worked directly at the track.

‘Teams, on the other hand, have so-called virtual garages in their factories.

‘The data from the racetrack flows into them in real time. Experts in the virtual garages support their teams from the factory.

‘A similar system is now also conceivable at the FIA.

‘While the race director on site takes care of the most important tasks in real time, a team in the background can check various scenarios and intervene in an emergency. Similar to a virtual referee in football.

‘The teams’ radio messages could then also be received there.

‘There will be no more radio chaos like in Abu Dhabi, where team bosses interfered in the race director’s decisions.’

There also seems to be general support in the paddock to stop broadcasting messages between the teams and the FIA, while the proposed ‘background team’ would help create a buffer zone to stop teams directly lobbying the race director – as we saw on many occasions throughout a crazy 2021 season.


Masi ‘likely’ to be replaced in new structure

A BBC report has revealed that Michael Masi is likely to be replaced.