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F1 | Drivers on having two racing directors and a lack of consistency

The 2022 season brought the decision of the new FIA president to split Masi's race director role between two of his colleagues, but not all drivers believe it was the right choice, while others believe time will improve their performance

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F1 | Drivers on having two racing directors and a lack of consistency
Fuente imagen: Scuderia Ferrari

After the Abu Dhabi GP in 2021, where at the time race director Micheal Masi interpretated the safety car procedure in a different way to the standard one and only an handful of drivers informed manually instead of in an automatic way, the FIA had promised that changes were to come, in order to ensure that such a "human error", as it was described in their final race report, wasn't going to happen again.

The Virtual Race Control Room, a direct comunication link between the race director and the FIA offices as backup support, just like VAR in football, debuted in time for the start of the 2022 season, but the greatest difference introduced by newly elected FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem involved the incriminated role covered by Masi last year.

Masi was in fact replaced by both DTM race director Niels Wittich and WEC race director Eduardo Freitas, alternating in taking over the role of F1 race director. 

However, not all drivers have been pleased by the choice of having two different people to cover for a single job, with some of them expressing their displeasure in "inconsistent" decisions.

As an example, in the last Monaco round neither of the Red Bull cars was penalised for touching the pit exit line, whereas Yuki Tsunoda had received two 5s time penalties for crossing the white line last year in Austria.

The AlphaTauri driver was extremely critical while asked on the topic: "I'm not trusting the FIA. Every time it's super inconsistent. I got already four reprimands, and the last time in Monaco, I still don't know why."

While appreciating the way FIA has been attempting to ensure more consistency in handing out penalties, Tsunoda reckons that Masi's experience could still be helpful in achieving it.

"It is a completely different style of race director. I'm not saying fully negative things, because it is also a good thing that they try to make it consistent and to be fair as much as possible with all the teams."

"For example, the white line track limit is more clear. But a lot of things, other things, a racing incident or traffic management and all those things, I think Michael Masi had more experience if I compare," he summed up.

Haas's Kevin Magnussen believes that Wittich and Freitas just need more time to settle in their roles:

"Well, I think it's clear that we've had a rotation and there are new people in the FIA. There's going to be some improvements for sure. Right now, they are probably finding the grip with their new job. [You've] got to give them some time to figure everything out."

This belief is shared by George Russell,who advocates it's "too early to judge" them.

"Obviously, the two race directors are new to the role and with any new role you need time to settle in. We're seven races in – five and two races each."

The GPDA director insisted also on the importance of comunication between the racers and the directors, but he is hopeful for the future:

"I think we need to have this open dialogue between the drivers, the race directors, or the team managers or race directors. We're obviously the only 20 drivers within the race cars who have a feeling of what the race tracks are like – what needs to be done to improve safety to improve the race and whatever."

"We need to have this open relationship to push the sport forward in all directions. And I think it'll take a few more races. But hopefully we'll all be on the same page sooner rather than later."

Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas is more drastic in his approach to the matter, declaring that it would also facilitate a better understanding between the parts:

"One [race director] would be better than two or three. That's my feeling. The same person in each race, you always have the same person to discuss with if he's been in all the races before and taken all the feedback and kind of knows our view."

On the other hand, his former teammate Lewis Hamilton is satisfied with the work done by the duo so far, in spite of the jewelry ban he's been struggling with.

"Generally I think that a good job has been done so far. It will get better. We are trying to work with the FIA. From Mohammed – I think it's a huge role, big shoes to fill, and we just need to give him time."

"There's a lot that he wants to do and lots of things he wants to change. I believe from what he has told us that he will do those," said the seven times World Champion.

Another who hasn't been completely satisfied by race control decisions so far is Fernando Alonso, who believes Ben Sulayem will help solve such consistency issues:

"At the moment maybe [decisions are] a bit rough. We saw few things at the beginning of the year that were not as consistent as we wish, or as we ask for. I think there is room to improve, yes. But I have full trust in the FIA president. So, he will fix the things that need to be fixed."

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc agrees with him in hoping that a solution to this issue is found soon:

"I would like to see more consistency, this is where we need to improve. Whether it will be improved or not I don't know but as Fernando said there's room for improvement and now we just need to make things better."

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