Insight into the new technology which helps F1 stewards make key decisions
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Feb 2013   |  10:14 am GMT  |  95 comments

Of all the areas within F1 which arouse controversy and debate, perhaps none is as central as the penalties handed out – or not – by the FIA race stewards.

The stewards are charged with assessing on track misdemeanours and punishing drivers accordingly; Grosjean, Maldonado, Hamilton, Petrov and others have all been on the receiving end of penalties in recent years.

But today the FIA has released some details of how those decisions are reached. An extract from a fascinating article in the FIA’s new AUTO magazine, sheds light on what the Federation calls “cyber stewarding”.

Fans expect the stewards to be able to view video footage of incidents, when making their decisions on which driver is at fault. But the technology at their disposal today goes far further than that, as the FIA’s chair of stewards Gary Connelly explains,

“First of all, we have all the video feeds — the pictures that have gone to air; the vision captured by FOM Communication TV system but which hasn’t been put to air; the closed circuit cameras around the track, and all the onboard material as well,” he says. “We have GPS tracking, which shows where cars are at any given time.

“We also have access to all the team radio transmissions, which are very important as they allow us to know if a team has warned a driver that he’s about to impede another car and whether a driver has ignored that information,” Connelly continued. “Finally, as of this summer, we can now obtain real-time telemetry from the cars. That’s really useful as we can overlay telemetry information from an incident with data from previous laps, so for example, we can tell if a driver has done something like failing to back of under yellow flags.

“Linking all this together you can come up with a complete picture of what’s going on. You have a mass of information that isn’t available to the public or the teams. That’s why decisions are sometimes taken that people have trouble understanding, but they simply don’t have all the information the Stewards do.”

FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting adds that in an effort to ensure consistency of decisions, all the incidents from recent seasons are kept on hard drives so that stewards can refer to them with repeat offenders or refer to precedents when deciding on penalties.

You can read the whole article here –

*The FIA announced today that McLaren has become the first F1 team to be awarded the FIA Institute’s Environmental Award for the Achievement of Excellence. The award is part of a broader initiative between the FIA and the FIA Institute aimed at evaluating and reducing the environmental impact of motor sport. It is also the highest level attainable within the FIA Institute Sustainability Programme, which helps motor sport stakeholders to measure, improve and be recognised for their environmental performance.

FIA’s work on sustainability in motor sport focuses on these key areas: carbon footprint, human footprint, water footprint, ecosystems quality, natural resources and human health. This assessment will form the basis of the FIA’s environmental strategy across all areas of motor sport.

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The thing that bugs me is is consistency, and not necessarily in terms of incidents/collisions. In those cases, I generally don’t find and disagreement with the stewards’ decisions.

But stuff like… when the rule is you have to keep two wheels inside the white lines, and everyone’s just doing whatever they want like at Hockenheim last year, it’s a bit of a farce. And then Vettel gets done for his overtake on Button. I agree he should have been done for it, but right from FP1 people should have been given warnings for running wide and penalties for doing it consistently.

Massa at Singapore too cut quite a few corners, four wheels straight over the kerb, but nothing was done about it.


I just read this piece, I am some of you have as well. This while V6 fight by Bernie is interesting. As is the battery transportation issues. If Bernie says I won’t transport these batteries…what then?

Why do I have a feeling that we will see V8s on the grid in 2014? Mercedes – won’t be happy.


Could F1 allow V8’s and V6’s to race alongside one another like the V10’s and V8’s did a few seasons past.

Obviously there would be restrictions on the V8’s until all teams were running the new spec.

Also, I remember a BMW mechanic being electrocuted during a test session at Jerez with the new KERS system back in 2008, which caused all teams to invest in substantial safety wear for the mechanics.

All new technology has it’s dangers, but I would imagine if batteries can’t be transported by air, they would source suppliers in each relevant country.


What if circuits can’t get fire insurance because of this? It is not just planes that are an issue. But as an insurer I would cover a potential fire in an FOM plane.

How will they source batteries in China? Oh right. But eventually this would become too expensive even for F1. How many sets of batteries would each team need each weekend at each GP?


The article itself is encouraging. If there is one area, where F1 is weak, it must be stewarding. It is even better to see people asking to make the evidence public, how stewards reached their decisions. How can we believe without the evidence, that the bickerings in Monza(both, 2012 and 2011) really were investigated, not solved by flipping a coin?

The stewards need technology to help them out a little. The self regulation does not work these days, when it is so easy to cut corners and safe to drive into other cars and later blame everyone else for that.

There seems to be great opposition to investigating cases after the race. It might be just my little trick, but when following a competition, I want to know who is the best, not the luckiest getting away with fraud. Let them investigate, even if it takes 10 years, I’m fine with that, as long as it gives more realistic results. It is not a tragedy if somebody, due to unclear results, is not allowed to go to the podium for spraying champagne. Fake glory, no thanks.


Great read.

I’d love it for the FIA to, every now and again, publish case studies of how this system was applied for a particularly controversial or discussed race incident. From a fan-engagement perspective, it would be brilliant to document the process that took place when a key decision was being made (say Spa 2008, MS on Rubens at Hungary in 2010 or Vettel/Alonso at Monza in 2012). The potential to keep F1 in the media and to encourage increased fan activity and discussion would be huge. Good idea for a JAF1 and FIA hookup piece?

It’s not relevant, but I think this is the first instance I’ve seen of the term ‘far further’ ever being used


What would help is the Stewards producing a report on how they arrived at their decisions…or non-decisions after every race.Mentioning all the footages and other sources they used.


“Linking all this together you can come up with a complete picture of what’s going on. You have a mass of information that isn’t available to the public or the teams. That’s why decisions are sometimes taken that people have trouble understanding, but they simply don’t have all the information the Stewards do.”

So maybe it’d be good if the FIA release these information along with the penalties when it’s shown on the TV feeds?


Sorry James different topic but quite interesting.

Mercedes have posted some nice pictures of their driver’s helmets on their website.

They are very different, pop over and have a look.

Mohammed Al-Momen

It would be a good idea when announcing a decision, that after the race at least some of the data they have is released to let people better understand how they had come to that decision.


The one thing that I really [mod – dislike] about F1 is when the stewards apply time penalties after a race. I find it rediculous that it takes these people so long to make decisions. Imagine a football match having a goal removed after the game! To apply time penalties after a race is a farce – too many variables can not be taken into account (i.e. 20seconds after a safety car may drop someone 10places, while before it would only have cost them one place). It seems like they are bragging about all of the technology availible to them to ‘scientifically evaluate’ each incident. This is SPORT, people. don’t take yourselves so seriously – you are not a jury. Just make a reasonable call. It will be fine in most cases. It feels like you have wasted your time when these ‘professionals’ are too incompetent to make a judgement call and resort to fiddling with the results after the fact! Illegal cars excluded, of course.


Great article. I’ve a question though – do they have translators in there too since Ferrari seem to only converse in Italian on the radio these days?


I probably dreamt this, but I thought the stewards panel was at least partly made up from local officials. This was mooted as part of the problem of achieving consistency. In any event, to get back to the point, I cannot imagine they are all english and the problem of understanding another language is therefore not an issue.


I think it was from Brazilian GP or Abu Dhabi GP onwards, FIA began showing translations on screen of what Ferrari personnel conversed over the radio with Alonso.


Even if they don’t I guarantee you at least some of the other teams will.


No amount of technology can solve the problem of politics. Like everything else in life, its politics that governs the ultimate interpretation of technological evidence.

It is politics that ensures that both team and driver are spoken to for both their perspective and a veneer of fairness.

Put simply, an uninteresting backmarking plodder would more easily be punished than would an Alonso, Lewis, Kimi or Vettel.


That’s a very good point. The obvious competition is on the race track and this is governed by the technical and sporting regulations. But the teams also compete just as keenly off the track to try and influence the rules (in their favour).That part of the competition is unregulated and I suspect those with the deepest pockets have the loudest voice.


Great article again James – keep it up! 🙂


Correct me if im wrong but don’t the FIA already publish an reason to why they have giving a penalty?

Im sure I have seen on TV before Ted Kravits standing outside race control & showing a notice board with the stewards decision on it? Also im sure they must issue the teams with a more detailed reason?

Just cause they don’t show the full reason & explanation on screen doesn’t mean they don’t give one.


The problem is the audience don’t get to see the full reason. That notice board is only freely accessible to the teams, which is why the audience have a hard time in understanding some controversial decisions.


This line form the article is worth picking up: “Technology also helps to ensure the consistency of decisions”. Not wanting to appear a pedant, but… this statement is flawed. It isn’t the technology that is helping to ensure consistency, technology is really providing granularity in the data the FIA captures. Technology is obviously part of the solution; it must be clear, real consistency comes from the manner in which the gathered information is interpreted. As other readers mention, more feedback on this element of the process is required.


Is there not a famous poem about F1 stewards and their decisions that begins like this

“earth has not anything to show more fair”



going back to flag-gate at the end of last year. Would the control room have known that Vettel did not pass under yellows (a) instantly, (b) the lap after, (c) much later but still before the end of the race or (d) only after the race?


If he had passed a yellow the race control would have received an alert from the chief marshal at the post in question


Like a few have said, if the information forming the basis of the decision is transparent and shared with the fans then it will add an element of intersection to the ” show”. However I can only hope that too much of this information does not stall the decision on the day. Where the tough calls need to be made so that a driver does not get dis/advantaged on the day becomes now a decision made by trial on video and digital evidence two days later. This is very likely if you too have too much information to sift through and not enough people or time to do so during the race.

James am I right in saying the stewards room just got a whole lot bigger?


No the photo is of Race Control


Sorry I meant race control – will it grow in head count due to the increased information to be processed and analysed. Cheers


Well then, with all the information available to them, there is no justification for handing out delayed penalties post race. All penalties should be awarded within 10 minutes of the occurance of the incident. There is enough of them viewing all that information for an efficient and timely ruling to be expected. Especially with instances where a penalty will affect the result of the current race.

Considering all these resources the stewards have access to, it is apalling how the podium ceremony was allowed to take place in Germany last year before a ruling on Vettel’s illegal overtake had been passed. More than enough time was available for a judgement to be made. Even if the incident in question had happened on the final lap! (which it did not).


Because by rule all the incidents that take place with 5 laps or less remening are all investigated after the race.


Then this rule needs changing 🙂


Isn’t this fundamentally a sport for the fans’ entertainment? Sure, it’s also a big business, but the fans’ interest comes first, without that there would be no business.

So why are we not given more of this information? If, for example, there are better views of incidents not aired live, why don’t we see it?


It’s all very well stewards having such resources to hand but they need to act promptly so not destroying a drivers race. Sometimes it can take a number of laps for decisions to be made which is far too late.


I think first lap incidents are generally treated a bit more leniently.

Unless you are Grosjean and do it all the time.


armed with so much information, the stewards should have been able to make fairer decisions. i’m surprise they couldn’t avoid making new rules to be applied to passed incidents. ie hamilton raikkonen spa 2008.


What I find rather strange is how often we hear things like:

“[We] have a mass of information that isn’t available to the public or the teams. That’s why decisions are sometimes taken that people have trouble understanding, but they simply don’t have all the information the Stewards do.”

Well then, make as much of the information available to the public as you can. It’s interesting for us and helps us understand the sport better. We would like to know the basic facts of the incident and the thought process that was applied to arrive at the decision to penalise or otherwise. It can’t be that hard.


It would be nice if they released some of these ‘unseen’ footage shots after the fact to back up their decisions. As you say it would certainly help explain to fans and other teams what really happened and why it was called.

I can only assume it’s not done due to the fear that teams might start getting more analysts and lawyers involved and constantly making more appeals and trying to override old decisions.


An online release would be ideal. Problem is – decisions are FIA, but all video evidence is FOM property!


This will be interesting to follow…

NBA and SAP making a whole load of ‘big’ data available to fans. Wonder if any other sports, and, in particular, F1 would consider this. Just think how much more engaged fans would feel knowing the governing body is doing everything it can to increase involvement and accessibility to insight…. Rather than keeping it hoarded away.


Stephen Taylor, if I understand you correctly you’re suggesting that fans become some kind of democratic gestalt steward. You’re surely joking. All F1 fans would need to be totally impartial, which is simply not the case. For example;

Would a fan honestly vote against “his driver?” Not likely. Does anyone want to see #VoteForMyDriver campaigns trending on Twitter?

Would a fan, in an incident not involving “his driver,” vote against “driver 1” or “driver 2” when “his driver” has a championship points deficit to make up? Depends which would benefit “his driver” more.

Would a fan, feeling bitter about a sour result that went against “his driver” be able to be impartial in the face of his urge to “restore the rightful balance?” I don’t think I’d trust them.

You just have to look at this site to know certain drivers have very vocal apologists and detractors which can twist and contort logic to fit their selfish feelings and agendas. The fans, the haters, the trolls, the conspiracy theorists. Just look how many fans blur the line between fan and team by using “we” to describe the team they “support.” Can they be impartial?

My whole argument hinges on one point, and it is surprisingly not the question is wether impartiality is important because, without question, impartiality is vital.

It is wether F1 is fundamentally a (spectator) sport or just show business.


Why don’t the Fia let fans decide in an online vote?


If the FIA were to release a video along the lines of the ones that Brendan Shanahan does for the NHL when he levies a suspension that would be ideal.



How all this technology help FIA to avoid that teams could come with their own “interpretation of the rules”? I´m not talking about only any given race but also engine maps or flex wings


That’s a great picture of the control room above.

I think I can just about make out the beginnings of the massive fire which obviously caused them all to evacuate at the start of the Brazilian GP last year. That can be the only reason they didn’t give Vettel a penalty for crashing into Bruno Senna.

I hope they all got out ok. My heart goes out to them….


@ CarlH

Regards the Vettel-Senna incident at Interlagos.

Perhaps the stewards were of the view Vettel was partly to blame for the collision and seeing as he had ended up at the back of the snake, there was no need to go into overkill mode by dishing out a penalty.


If that’s what they decided that that’s terrible stewarding. The rules should be the same for everyone, regardless of what the outcome for the driver causing the incident.



Whatever they did on the day they would have ended up getting slammed for it.