SEPTEMBER 30, 2008

FIA to change stewarding system?

The word in Singapore is that the FIA is planning to change the way in which the stewards operate, but this is not in recation to the recent controversies, but rather a work which has been in progress for some time. FIA President Max Mosley has been mulling over the idea of having four stewards at each race since the end of last year. There are some who argue that this is bad idea as it will mean that more FIA politicians will be involved in the processes of judging the racers, and will thus make the system easier to manipulate. This is arguable as it largely depends on who the people taking the roles are. At the moment the stewards are largely members of the World Council and the job is seen as one of the perks of the job. Some of those are highly-experienced sports administrators but some are not, indeed there have been stewards in recent years who have never seen an F1 race before officiating at one.

The primary controversy in F1 at the moment is not actually about the stewards but rather is concentrated on the people around them who influence the decision-making process, notably the stewards' advisor Alan Donnelly, a close associate of Mosley, and Race Director Charlie Whiting. The disappearance of Tony Scott Andrews at the end of last year removed a highly credibly figure and the fact that he appeared at the recent FIA International Court of Appeal as a witness for Mclaren suggests that he was none too impressed by what happened.

The FIA argues that it is hard to find people to do the jobs, arguing that if one chooses Britons, the Italians complain and if one chooses Italians the British complain. This is largely irrelevant as it is the credibility of the indiviuals involved which is most important. If they are trusted then the sport will be better off for it. The bad news is that not enough of the FIA World Council members are trusted, most being seen as willing to do whatever it takes to keep their roles rather than what is best for the sport. That may not fair but that is certainly the perception in F1 circles.

Sir Jackie Stewart has long argued for permanent stewards to ensure that there is consistency in decision-making. This is probably a good idea but the FIA likes little of what Stewart says, if only because he is a contrary voice in a world where people find it easier to follo along and not make a fuss.