Steward enquiries

Formula One race steward Garry Connelly looks back at a season of change but which featured some positive developments.
Q: What have been the major developments for the F1 stewards this season?
A: I think the major change this year for us has been the introduction of the fivesecond penalty, because in the past we sometimes struggled to impose a penalty that suited certain transgressions.
The minimum that was available to us, other than a reprimand, was to give a drive-through, which is going to cost a driver many places. The five-second penalty is a really good balance and we’ve used it a lot this year.
The other thing the President challenged us on was to try to make decisions quickly, within two or three laps if it’s during the race, and I think we’ve managed to do that, except where we’ve had to postpone decisions until after the race because we need to get evidence from the drivers. It’s been a good year in that regard.
Q: Has the penalty met with the approval of the drivers?
A: No driver is ever happy to be penalised, but they certainly like the five-second penalty better than the drive through. The teams like the flexibility it has in terms of being able to take it during a pit stop and that it doesn’t disrupt their strategy too adversely.
Q: The power units introduced this year are highly technically advanced but did that present its own problems in terms of applying penalties for the use of more than the specified number of components?
A: All of the groundwork there is done by Jo Bauer and the technical team. They advise us of a breach and when there is a breach there are automatic penalties. Really, it’s a simple decision. What was complicated was what happened in Abu Dhabi, where the stewards had to take a decision on a set of circumstances that hadn’t previously arisen – where Romain Grosjean took a lot of penalties for use of power unit elements but because it was the last race they couldn’t carry them over to a new season, so they resolved it with time penalties, which was a reasonably elegant solution.
Q: Drivers respecting the track limits was another talking point this year, particularly at the Austrian Grand Prix, where many drivers had times deleted in qualifying. Is that something that needs more regulation?
A: It’s a difficult one. What happens is that the stewards rely on what the race director has advised is or is not acceptable. In Austria we were advised that for Turns 7 and 8 it was not going to be acceptable to go off the track during qualifying and that if you did go off track, that time would be disallowed. The teams all had adequate warning and the stewards acted accordingly.
Q: Do you think the penalty points system work?
A: I’m not sure. I think it’s up for discussion really. No one got up towards the 12 points that would lead to a race ban, but I think we’ll need look at it again.
Q: Ultimately, was it a successful year in the stewards’ room?
A: Yes, I think so. The Driver Steward is still a great bonus to how we work, particularly because of the caliber of the guys we have now. Also, the longer they do that job the better they become at it and the more integrated we all are and the more clarity you get.