Stewarding in F1 has always been a tricky thing to get right. They never get it right, always get it wrong! Recently they have had lots of problems with exploiting track limits. I’ve had the pleasure of re watching the 2008 Spa and Monza races, with drivers exploring the limits of chichane cutting. Hamilton was the persecuted in 08 with his incident in a wet final few laps. At Monza, drivers were a bit castrated, many limits being exploited, lots not actually being penalized due to drivers using their brain.
At present, there is lots to do with drivers exploring the limits of the track in overtaking moves and also time advantage. With Monza quick approaching, the most blatant and consistently cut corner will be cut. That corner is actually on exit of Variante Ascari, it actually increases track length by 8 meters! For years Charlie Whiting and his team have always turned a blind eye due to the fact they are going further and not actually gaining a advantage in lap length, however gaining an advantage in lap time in one and a half tenths of a second as it allows drivers to get on power earlier and gain the advantage down to Paribolica.
I was looking at the 2008 cars be almost nailed to the track following the same line. I also thought back to the incident with Button and Vettel in 2012 at the German GP at the hairpin in the final laps. Vettel took advantage on the exit to take the place, he was third at the finish but given a time penalty to take him back to 4th.
At Hungary this year we saw Vettel take position via a similar way at turn 4 or 5 (depending on what chart you look at) over Button, yet in the same race Grosjean did same with Massa. Vettel gained zero penalty and Grosjean a drive through. Grosjean I seldom support in such situations, but I do in this. Vettel I am not the greatest of fans or greatest of haters to.
In this situation of corner cutting the driver should give back the position before the next corner and not attack at the preceding one either. Such was the rule in 2008. As for gaining an advantage time wise or holding position such as Button/Vettel this should have same rule applied. However I would like to see a situation at the tracks that have those new modern wide and long run off areas to do something more. To my eye there is two options, first one is 1 meter off the white line just add a 1 meter strip of grass-concrete or similar, something that will spin the car wheels up and give zero advantage to the driver. The second way is to put some sort of tar or surface that gives so much traction that it damages the tyres, actually rips them apart over a certain speed. Thus giving a race wrecking penalty. Drivers would then have to think about whole overtake and not go for the half overtake and get the thing wrong.
Spa this year brought two other items to the stewards addenda, the car width rule on the Perez/Grosjean and Vergne/Hulkenberg incidents at Les Coumbs. The other thing was the pit entry incident with Maldanado/Di Resta. Ill start with the Maldanado/Di Resta one first, this one is simple to me, you have to be on the side of the defining line after the safety car line in order to pit. If you don’t, you have to go around for another lap, the driver behind will always should have the benefit of the doubt in that matter. As for the incidents at Les Coumbs, Perez was in the right I feel with a good hard pass, what driver hasn’t squeezed another to gain position. The fact that Vergne passed on the outside and squeezed Hulkenberg on the exit of the right hander of Les Coumbs adds weight to my argument. Hulkenberg had to take to the escape Tarmac as to not collide with Vergne. However Grosjean I feel collided with Perez in order to try and gain a penalty over Perez. Yes the rules state you need to leave a car width, but if you take your car off the track on entry to a corner, I feel the rule should be voided.
Stewards have a thankless job, however I think they should have a better set of definitions in front of them, definitions that will make racing safer and also clearer. How to do this, I don’t know. However I am a fan of 9 professional stewards with 3 being at every GP with each doing at least 2 GP as head steward every season. Each steward can’t do more than 2 consecutive GP as well. I’d have two driver steward as well per GP, each out of F1 for at least 10 years. Driver Stewards will only do two GP a year in order to apply diversity. As for penalties, Stewards have 90 seconds to say if it’s being investigated or not, and 3 laps to dish out a penalty. The head steward gives an incident to a steward/driver to acquit guilt, the head steward dishes out a penalty or penalties. It means two incidents can be investigated at once as well. Drivers have two laps to take their penalty, with no right of appeal. This no right of appeal clause will make drivers think about their actions and overtakes the whole way through.
I am a fan of reprimands being used like the yellow/red card system in football. First yellow a 5 place grid drop, second a 10 place grid drop, third and your out for a race. Further more, a 4th reprimand and you take another 10 place drop, a fifth and you spend 3 races out. Red reprimands carry a instant 3 race ban, with a second one carrying 5 out.