The FIA is turning to sports such as football and rugby to learn lessons which can be applied to Formula 1 race direction.
The motorsport governing body announced its programme to improve race direction at F1 events has completed its first phase. The Race Direction Development Programme was launched by FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem in an effort to improve how F1 races are run following the mishandling of last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Michael Masi lost his job as F1’s race director after the sport’s governing body determined he had failed to follow its rules in organising a last-lap restart during 2021’s title-deciding race. The outcome of the world championship changed following the restart as Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton to clinch the title.
Information supplied by the FIA’s Race Operations Centre (ROC) in Geneva was used in a review of recent grands prix with officials who attended them. This innovation, likened to football’s Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, was introduced after an investigation into the events of the Abu Dhabi GP identified failures in the decision-making process.
The FIA has also held discussions with representatives of the international sports organisations for football and rugby to take lessons from their refereeing procedures. Representatives of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, a supplier of football referees, will visit this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“The Race Direction Development Programme is designed to improve our race direction operations as part of our ongoing efforts to bring rigour and best practice to the governance of the sport,” said Ben Sulayem. “It also builds on the implementation of the ROC to support our race operations.
“The programme will also help us identify emerging talent so we can grow our pool of race directors, stewards and officials for the future.”
F1’s race direction procedures encountered further problems at last weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix. During a Safety Car period one of the three drivers who should have been allowed to rejoin the lead lap, Yuki Tsunoda, was overlooked. A similar error was central to the controversial outcome of last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
An FIA spokesperson said “all of the systems functioned correctly and according to the regulations,” and “the unusual situation arose as a result of the idiosyncrasies of the specific circuit and scenario”.