A lot of people are scratching their heads about the FIA’s latest plan when it comes to race stewards. One of the most common complaints you will hear an F1 fan make is that the decisions made by the stewards are not consistent enough. For the past couple of years there has been a permanent steward, Tony Scott-Andrews, who has presided over every race alongside two others who are appointed on a race-by-race basis.
The presence of a permanent steward greatly improved the image of the process. Although there were still perceived inconsistencies, you couldn’t really lay the blame on anything in particular because of Tony Scott-Andrews, who most seem to agree did a good job.
Tony Scott-Andrews has decided not to continue in the role in 2008. So what would you do if you were the FIA? Would you continue the successful scheme of having permanent, independent stewards? Or will you hire a lackey?
Of course, you are not President of the FIA. Unfortunately, Max Mosley is. And so apparently his good buddy Alan Donnelly “will be involved in the process”, alongside three stewards who will be appointed on a race-by-race basis.
The three stewards will be “neutrals” in that they won’t come from the same country as anyone else involved in F1. Given that nationality shamefully played such a big role in the Hamilton / Alonso hoo-ha last year, this is understandable. But I can’t help but worry that it means the best people for the job will be overlooked.
The real worry though is that Alan Donnelly will apparently have a major influence in the decision-making process this year. According to GrandPrix.com:
If Donnelly takes up a role as the permanent F1 steward it is going to be very hard for him to establish any credibility as an independent. This in turn will reflect on the FIA and will not help improve the perception – whether true or not – that everything is controlled by Mosley.
The problem is that while Donnelly is clearly an intelligent and capable individual he has been a close ally of Mosley for eight years and before that worked with the FIA President as a member of the FIA-funded Automobile Users Group at the European Parliament. Today he is paid as an FIA consultant.
His company Sovereign Strategy currently list Formula One Management Ltd as a client. It’s not hard to imagine the sport’s commercial interests being taken into consideration when looking at future rule infringements…
Of further interest a quick perusal through the Internet Archive, sees Sovereign Strategy at one time listing Ferrari as a previous client…
It’s not clear when the Italian manufacturer was removed from the client list (the archive displays the page as recently as June 2007), but one could speculate it was probably very recently. One also wonders whether the Scuderia have completely severed ties with Sovereign, and what bearing that may have on future ‘difficult’ decisions?
So the new permanent steward is not only an FIA / Max Mosley lackey, he is a Ferrari lackey as well! But this should come as no surprise given that FIA stands for Ferrari International Assistance and all.
In all seriousness, this is the last thing Formula 1 needs. At a time when so many people see Max Mosley as wielding too much power over F1 (to put it very politely indeed), to have a chum of Mosley’s become the new permanent steward is a recipe for disaster. Worse still, when so many people see the FIA as blatantly favouring Ferrari, is it really so wise to bring in a man whose company very recently listed Ferrari among its clients, one position below the FIA (Max Mosley’s organisation) and two above FOA (Bernie Ecclestone’s company)?
Max Mosley is truly in cloud cuckoo land. He must realise that this move is highly provocative. It will not be long before people start pointing fingers and suspecting bias.
The FIA has a major image problem among F1 fans as I recently pointed out. It is worrying enough that Max Mosley should install someone with such blatant Ferrari links in a position of such authority. What is even more worrying is that Mosley no longer even seems to be interested in pretending that the FIA are not just a bunch of Ferrari lackeys.
The sooner Mosley is replaced, the better. He is a rotten man who brings far too much politics into Formula 1 just because real politics was a no-go area due to his lineage. After the events of last year, more politics is the last thing F1 needs. But given this provocative appointment, it is obvious that Mosley doesn’t give a damn about this fact.