WAFFLING TOAST – WHY F1 OFFICIALS SHOULD SPEND THIS WEEKEND AT WARDEN LAW AND DONINGTON PARK, THERE ARE LESSONS THERE FOR THEM

MOTOR RACING UK EDITOR MICK PALMER IS ON HIS HIGH HORSE AGAIN. THIS WEEK HE’S ISOLATING SO HE PREVIEWS THE EVENTS HE WAS MEANT TO ATTEND, WHILE GIVING A BIT OF A LASHING TO THE OFFICIALS RESPONSIBLE FOR PENALTIES AT THE RED BULL RING LAST WEEKEND. PIES AND PASTIES ARE ALSO MENTIONED.

This weekend I’m at home isolating with confirmed Covid in the household. I was meant to be at Donington Park on Sunday for the British F3 and British GT rounds, and nearer home on Saturday at Warden Law for the MSUK Rotax ‘O’ plate meeting. As the lady who phoned me from Test and Trace said: “It’s to protect your community.”

If she means the racing community then I agree, if she was referring to the community in my locale – and it’s array of ‘interesting’ folk – then it’s a different story. Especially the geezer a few streets away a few (pre-Covid) days ago that I witnessed smoking, in his shorts, pumping red diesel from a clear container into his Audi, on a main road, 400 yards from a Police Station, with an ankle tag as foot jewellery, then maybe not as much.

The Karting and F3/GT, I’ll get there in a moment, but as this is my now weekly blog with a very different feel to Motor Racing UK Magazine, and where I can rant about international racing, I think I’ll get the bollocks of the Austrian GP out of the way first.

Turn One – Warden Law – Photo: Mick Palmer

When Will Power received a little love tap from Scott Dixon in the IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio on Sunday evening I really thought that some F1 graphics were going to pop up on screen declaring that Dixie was getting a five second penalty. On Monday when a slightly confused driver cut me off along the local coastal road thanks to some appalling parking on a corner by a Transit van, I was sure that upon later inspection of my dashcam that there would be a little magnifying glass icon indicating that the incident was noted and being investigated. Am I being too facetious here? If I am, tough shit.

There were plenty of penalties – more than we’ve had in Euro 2020 shootouts I reckon. I just had to get that Dad joke in, but there were lots of investigations going on, some bang on, some, in context were utterly pointless. Ignoring double waved yellows is to me a cut and dry decision. After the Kimi and Seb love in at the end many drivers were reported for it – check the reports and make of it what you will.

Tsunoda crossing the blend line on pit in. No contest. A few reports of George Russell moving under braking, a different matter, but the three that we all aired opinions on? I really don’t get how Gerd Ennser, Paolo Longoni, Derek Warwick and Walter Jobst have the hanging Gentleman parts to put their names to two, possibly three of them, but then again it’s the same in race control where leadership from the top with Race Director Michael Masi leaves some of us wondering what on earth is going on.

To me, and this is my opinion, Masi hasn’t imposed himself. When the late Charlie Whiting led that part of F1 for the FIA there was an amount of give and take and respect between himself, the teams and the drivers. It was earned over a long period of time and whoever was to replace him was always going to have an uphill battle as the ‘other’ side attempted to push them around. That’s why a statement needed to be made early on, which never happened with Masi. He needed to crush balls somewhere as Race Director to uphold his authority, but no, all we’ve had recently is ‘you can’t drive over the edge of the track here, but if you do we won’t punish you.’ At a time where he should have been dropping anvils on the edges of certain corners he failed. He’s not having the effect that he should after two-and-a-bit years in the job.

As for the rotating circus of stewards, I just don’t get it. I really don’t. I know the idea of permanent stewards is one that many call for, but the fear of prejudice repeating if the same people are in that office race after race is one reason why that system wouldn’t work, just like the current one isn’t. I joked on Sunday that they had mixed up their penalty button with one that calls for their free pies and cakes, but the precedent they set early on with Lando Norris saw them shoot themselves in the foot before having to cross a minefield.

“At the entry of turn 4, PER and NOR were side by side. Then on the exit NOR was judged not to give PER enough room and PER was forced off the track,” stated document 45. “At the entry of turn 4, LEC and PER were side by side. Then on the exit PER was judged not to give LEC enough room and LEC was forced off the track,” it said on document 47. And so on. When you go around the outside…. you know the arguments there as well as I do. If they were basing it on Hamilton and Albon last year they seem to forget that Albon had almost completed the move before Hamilton ran wide and his front left nerffed the Red Bull on the right rear and not only ran him off the road, but spun him around.

”The Stewards reviewed video evidence showing that cars 23 and 44 were side by side approaching the apex of turn 4. They negotiated the turn side by side, but car 23 had a better exit and was in the process of passing car 44. Car 44 was drafting to the outside at the exit of turn 4 and consequently making contact with the rear right wheel of car 23, causing car 23 to spin. The Stewards determined that the driver of car 44 is predominantly to blame for the collision.” Gerd Ennser and Walter Jobst were also on duty that day too, but with Felix Holter and Vitantonio Liuzzi also making decisions. Does that rule two of them out when it comes to the calls made?

Like I said, I was meant to be at a Kart meeting and the British F3/GT meeting this weekend. As far as the F3 and Karting goes we’ve heard time and again over the years of how the tactics of Senna and Schumacher have influenced a generation of single seat drivers who are happy to use Touring Car tactics. What a crock. It does a disservice to those young racers by painting them with that brush. Of course there will always be one or two, but that’s a reflection of life and society in any situation. Those who transgress face the music and risk the wrath of the clerk of the course and stewards. It’s the same with club racing.

Chequered Flag – Warden Law – Photo: Mick Palmer

I know that the BRDC F3 is on an SRO bill so there is quite a bit of coverage and plenty of angles to check to see who has wronged who, naturally with a series like British GT there is going to be the benefit of that bonus. It’s the same for the GT guys. I’ve seen some of them come out of race control with their tail down having lost a strip or two. I’ve seen chastised F3 driers looking like they’ve had their sweets taken off them. In Karting it’s a bit different, there is more of (at the moment socially distanced) arm around the shoulder and education angle, but generally all of them seem to get a handle on their championships and events far quicker than F1 does.

How come you can go to Mallory Park or Knockhill and corrections and sanctions can be metered with a post report and two bouncy GoPro memory cards, in five minutes, yet in F1 sometimes these decisions will take 45 – even without any others to consider. It didn’t take that long for the two Perez/Leclerc incidents, they’d set a precedent of no racing in the Salzberg region last week after dropping a five second, two points (really?) slap across the face of Norris. How do the drivers and representatives of teams not wet their pants laughing at these decisions. The respect from competitors to officials isn’t there. I’m serious. If you shoved even veterans like Alonso and Raikkonen into the wrath of representatives at a BARC or 750 meeting then they would would have a face like a smacked arse once they’d been released.

The other F1 gripe I have with penalties is time. This does get me wound up because it splashes the yellow water in the face of some of where F1 has been, and is, positioning itself. I think if you’re here reading this (or have gotten this far without chucking your brekkie at the screen in disgust and disagreement) then it won’t be a problem for you, but it gets me going. Japan 1994. The last aggregate race. Hill vs Schumacher in a restarted red flag event where the times of part one and two were added together. The then FIA president Max Mosley wasn’t too keen on the idea of bleary eyed Europeans having to watch Schumacher cross the line first, Hill second, then see the times to determine Hill as a winner. In response the rules were changed so that difficulty would be removed. Restarted races would from then on be scored on the restarted portion because the aggregate system was too complex for some. It meant that if you were in first you were first, second in second, tenth in tenth and so on, but not anymore.

The bane of the five second penalty. Once penalties became more commonplace in the nineties it was a 10 second stop and go, or a stop and go, or a drive through, all changing at different times. It meant that something worthy of a penalty was punished. Now we have five second time penalties (fine when they’re taken at a pitstop) but when you’re racing to the flag on your last set of rubber for the day it’s a silly slap on the wrist, and it ‘confuses’ the fan with a passing interest. Especially if multiple cars have that whacked onto them. It goes against the accessible ‘Drive to Survive’ ethos that Liberty are building, as well as what Mosley had intended. It’s here where leadership should come back to the fore from the FIA, Race Director and stewards. Make a penalty a punishment. Ditch the five second cop out, make them hurt, but apply them only when needed. If Max or Lewis go across that track limit (which should always be the white line) a few times, don’t delete lap times – the lamest of ‘punishments’ – send them through the pits on a limiter, you’ll find soon enough that everyone will start to respect the track limits then. But that would take strong leadership. Can’t see that happening.

There is no F1 or IndyCar this weekend on TV for this isolating journo, but there is plenty of streaming events. Like I stated Warden Law is hosting the MSUK ‘O’ Plate meeting. The one where the prestigious number is up for grabs, but I’ll have to watch it on TV via YouTube, and it promises to be a hell of a meeting. Changeable weather is predicted and it’s on pretty high ground with the North Sea just a couple of miles West of the track. On days like that an Ardennes like micro climate can come over and drop four seasons in 30 minutes. The heats are sure to be affected meaning that the finals could be immense, but part of the reasoning for that is the track itself.

Facilities at Warden Law outstrip some BTCC and BSB venues – Photo: Mick Palmer

There are some Kart tracks up and down the country with well kept facilities with raceable (is that a word?) layouts. For years the cream of that crop had the top meetings. Warden Law was not part of that clique, but since Karting North East was taken over by Matthew Hunter and his family a couple of years ago it’s been transformed, and invested into. The place has been reborn and is breaking out from being one of the best kept secrets in the top level of the category.

I’ve said this about Warden Law before under its new stewardship. Its facilities, investment and upkeep puts to shame some circuits that host BTCC and BSB meetings. By a long, long shot. It is immaculate, and that’s not just for the cameras arriving with a top level production on-site for the event. That’s year round. The layout is fast and challenging with some deceptive corners in the infield section and if you are starved of racing action this weekend I implore you to give it a shot via the RC Racing channel on YouTube.

I should have been interviewing some F3 people for the next issue of Motor Racing UK Magazine at Donington. There is something brewing for the next issue related to the championship in what we already believe is going to be a standout release for the magazine. There is going to be some interesting reading there, something that will hopefully make you think, and even disagree.

Zak O’Sullivan and Reece Ushijima are looking like stars already with ex-F4 racer Roberto Faria seemingly ready to have a consistent, Clement Novalak type season. The man to watch though is Ayrton Simmons. The Chris Dittman Racing driver is back for a second full season crack after finishing third in 2019 (and winning in a couple of guest returns last year.) Also appearing on YouTube on Sunday – along with the British GT two hour race.

Ayrton Simmons (CDR) – British F3 – Donington Park 2019 – Photo Mick Palmer


I have a feeling all of the events will pass off without the woeful anti-racing stance taken in the F1 stewards room last Sunday. Perhaps they should sit in on the officials at Warden Law and Donington to learn a thing or two about decisive governance of a race event. They all climbed the ladder to F1 positions, and sometimes when drivers are punished for poor behaviour they have to head down the order to see how things work (Max Verstappen at Formula E learning the ropes is one example.) Maybe it should be the same for officials too. They could learn a thing or two about getting it right most of the time without all the bells, whistles, cakes and pies of the wonderfully comfortable air conditioned sanctuary they lock themselves away in. Actually scrub the bakery complaint, Warden Law does have some bloody good pies and pasties on offer.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. That’s part of the ethos of the racing community. I might be at home unable to take pictures and grab quotes, but I’ll continue to support our sport this weekend through streaming to keep up with what is happening. That community will one day see those children lead the racing ‘village,’ and hopefully it’ll be one that is fair in F1 competition and officiating. I just wish they were there running it now……

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