Race Comment: Win for Mercedes and defeat for FIA stewards
Thanks to Valtteri Bottas’ excellent start, Mercedes celebrated a victory in Suzuka, confirming the sixth consecutive F1 Champion title among constructors. The celebration of silver arrows this time passed in the shadow of bizarre decisions by FIA stewards, who once again did a disservice to the elite motorsport class, if not embarrassing.
Burlesque started at the very beginning when Sebastian Vettel took off before the red lights went out. Why Vettel got away without punishment was not entirely clear even to himself. Fans have a hard time understanding why Kimi Raikkonen was fined two weeks ago with a drive-through. Both Vettel and Raikkonen moved too fast and both should receive the same penalty.
The collision in the first turn ensued when Charles Leclerc collided with Max Verstappen, who ended the race early. The stewards first identified the collision as a racing incident and then, to everyone’s surprise, began the investigation again. After the collision, Leclerc drove a few more laps with a severely damaged front wing that eventually fell off and flew toward Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz. Despite the fact that it all happened at the outset, stewards handed Leclerc a double penalty a few hours after the race ended. The FIA allowed Leclerc to race three additional laps with unattached parts, putting drivers in immediate danger, especially Hamilton and Sainz who could get some of Ferrari’s part in their racing helmet.
Formula 1 urgently needs “steward” reform as soon as possible. Tom Kristensen, who commanded the foursome today, has made a number of controversial decisions in the past that is not an honor for the fastest sport. The problem is not in penalties, but in the inconsistency of stewards, who always judge a little differently and, under certain circumstances, maybe even interests. The rules should apply to everyone equally, and Formula 1 should consider changing the judging panel, which destroys the credibility of the whole sport, rather than changing the qualification format.