Following the controversial collision between title-rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix, Formula 1 Race Director Michael Masi has discussed the importance of stewards not considering the consequences of an accident when awarding a penalty.
The statement from Masi came after Hamilton and Verstappen collided on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Hamilton was on the inside of Verstappen going into Copse but wasn’t quite ahead. Neither driver backed off meaning an inevitable collision occurred as they turned into the corner. Hamilton caught Verstappen’s right-rear, sending him hurtling into the barrier at 51G’s.
The incident saw Verstappen immediately retire from the race, the Dutchman also took a precautionary trip to hospital. Hamilton won the race despite being awarded a ten-second time penalty for the collision.
Not only Red Bull Racing but many fans too were angry with what they deemed to be a lenient penalty, considering Verstappen was out of the race as a result of the crash and had to go to hospital. In an interview since the race, Masi discussed that the stewards “judge an incident based on the incident itself” and “not consider the consequences in an incident”.
“I think one of the big parts that’s been a mainstay for many, many years, and this came through discussions prior to my time between all of the teams, the FIA and F1, and the team principals were all quite adamant, is that you should not consider the consequences in an incident.
“So when they judge an incident they judge the incident itself, and the merits of the incident, not what happens afterwards as a consequence. And that’s been something that the stewards have done for many years. And have been advised to do from top down. And I’m talking team involvement, and so forth. So that’s the way that the stewards judge it, because start taking consequences into account, there’s so many variables, rather than judging the incident itself on its merits.
Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner was furious with the penalty awarded to Hamilton, Helmut Marko even went to the length of demanding that Hamilton should be suspended from the next grand prix. Masi is aware that the consequences of an incident, for example retirement from the race, can make a penalty seem too lenient, which is why the stewards award the penalty based on the incident, not the aftermath.
“I think if you look at it on that basis you’ll never find a penalty that will address an imbalance like that. If you look at it in that particular circumstance so that is why going back a few years the teams, or team principals, made a clear distinction that they didn’t want consequences taken into account they wanted it based on the incident itself. I completely understand that perspective and I think that is a general held view across all stewarding, to not look at consequences for that purpose.
Some have asked for the stewards to come forward and explain how they reach a decision, however Masi doesn’t believe this is necessary.
“I think that you’ve got a lot of TV analysts out there with a lot of very experienced former drivers out there that will put a perspective forward. And the stewards look at absolutely everything that they’ve got available. And unlike a VAR process that sort of done and dusted within 30 seconds, sometimes maybe a minute maximum, the stewards are very much are told that you take the time that you need to analyse any possible element of any incident that occurs.
“So I don’t see it from that point of view, I think the stewards need to remain as an independent judiciary. And I don’t think they should in their capacity should have any pressures, and they should take their time to analyse everything based on its merits.”