FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem has called for the training for Formula One stewards to become more structured, akin to the process that rally and co-rally drivers undergo for their sport.
Ben Sulayem comes from a rallying background having participated in the sport for 16 years, winning 14 Middle East Rallying titles. He has helped set up a virtual race control in Geneva that will directly train upcoming stewards from live races.
The news will be seen positively in the Formula One world, particularly by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton who lost last season’s World Driver’s Championship to Max Verstappen during the last lap of the last race in Abu Dhabi after a controversial FIA decision to only let certain cars pass a late safety car.
F1 race director Michael Masi was fired as a result but some blamed his actions on his inexperience. The Australian was thrust into a role he was not fully prepared for after the unexpected death of Charlie Whitening in 2019. His time in the role was characterised by questionable decisions on driver and steward safety.
Speaking in an interview with GrandPrix247, ben Sulayem said: “ I would like to see it, even if something happens, that the sport can continue; what if I decide tomorrow to retire or if I don’t want to be the person in charge. The sport must continue without missing me.”
“I was asking the Grand Prix Drivers Association to help me find the directors we need: do I go to Google or look into Amazon? This is no overnight decision!” he continued. “You have to find them and you have to raise and train them. This is why I went back to the old school of rallying scheme: the rally drivers training is more structured and can rotate easily.”
“The event and the sport have to go on. We need to train them to replace them. If we don’t do it now, we will have the same problem the following year,” the FIA president concluded.
The FIA operates the virtual race control centre in Geneva to help train stewards for future assignments in F1. Ben Sulayem believes the control centre should help Formula One maintain a higher level of stewarding in the upcoming years.
“What are the advantages?” the Emirati asked rhetorically. “First of all, backup for the stewards, secondly which is the main reason in my opinion: better training of the stewards.”
Given the controversy that has mired the sport in recent years, the change will be seen positively by many drivers hopeful of improved stewarding within the sport.