Monday, April 5, 2010

Driver Stewards: Not Impressed So Far

So one of the new ideas for 2010 is that one of the stewards at an event will be a former driver. The idea is that this driver can bring balance to the stewards council and the stewards will therefore be seen to be more fair and balanced.

The Malasian GP of 2010 pretty much puts lie to that theory.

The stewards made themselves noticed twice during this event.

First, Lewis Hamilton was fighting for position with Dmitri Petrov's Renault. Hamilton got past into turn one, but went deep and Petrov went by on the inside. Second time past, Hamilton went back and forth and back and forth down the main straight, an action that a lesser man might construe as "weaving". Hamilton defends himself:
I wasn’t weaving for him, I was weaving to break the tow.
The stewards took a look at this behavior, and decided that while it wasn't weaving, it wasn't sportsmanlike behavior, and Hamilton was warned.


Either it was weaving, or it wasn't. If it was, it deserves punishment. If it wasn't, then it doesn't deserve notice.

Now the problem from this is that drivers may get the idea that they can drive like that once and they will get away with a warning.

Consider this -- had it been Petrov's Renault doing the weaving trying to break the tow, no doubt McLaren would have been screaming bloody murder and Hamilton would have some words about how dangerous it was. And I don't doubt for a second that the stewards would come down hard on Petrov.

The second time the stewards got involved was at the end of the race when it was determined that eventual race-winner Vettel had passed a Lotus under waved yellow conditions during the race:
During Sunday's race, the 22-year-old passed Lotus' Jarno Trulli while yellow flags were waving, and a stewards report said Vettel "did breach ... the international sporting code".
Despite this determination, no penalty was assessed, because...
But the stewards, including former Grand Prix winner Johnny Herbert, said the Red Bull slowed down in the yellow flag area, and noted that Trulli at the time had "an obvious problem".
...the "obvious problem" being that he was recognizing the yellow flags.

We won't see this decision tested, because the driver home in second place was the other Red Bull and there wouldn't be anything to gain by Red Bull protesting their own driver's conduct. But had the Mercedes been home in second place that close to Vettel's car, I'm quite sure there would have been a protest.

Both of these "decisions" are reminiscent of the FIA's clown-court favoritism that results in popular, or championship-leading, drivers being held to one standard while the rest of the field is held to another. The only thing lacking from this weekend was a decision against a back-marker driver that was similarly marginal, defended by the paper equivalent of shrugging shoulders and a "well them's the rules, sorry" explanation.

Having the drivers on the stewards board was supposed to eliminate this type of circus.

I'm not impressed so far.