New FIA president outlines revamp of F1 refereeing process, including virtual control room and new unlapping rules.
New FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has outlined a wide-reaching revamp of the way Formula 1 races are refereed, with Michael Masi removed as race director and a series of procedural changes ushered in.
Ben Sulayem’s revisions come into effect shortly ahead of the start of the 2022 F1 season and are largely a response to the controversial final lap of the 2021 season, during which second-place Max Verstappen was allowed to catch up to race leader Lewis Hamilton behind the safety car.
“Drawing conclusions from the detailed analysis of the events of the last F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and from the 2021 season, I proposed an in-depth reform of the organisation of refereeing and race direction. It was unanimously supported by F1 CEO and teams principals,” Ben Sulayem said.
There are four key elements to the system overhaul, the first of which is the implementation of a Virtual Race Control Room, which Ben Sulayem likened to the video assistance referee (VAR) used in football. The race director will be able to use this to apply regulations in real-time, minimising the need for post-race reviews and hearings.
Secondly, F1 will restrict radio communications during races “to protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully”. Teams can still communicate with the director, but via a more official and regulated process.
A more direct response to last season’s Abu Dhabi finale is a review of the rules about drivers unlapping themselves behind the safety car. A final decision on these new rules has yet to be given but will be agreed prior to the start of the 2022 season.
Masi will be offered a new role within the FIA. He will be replaced by ex-DTM race director Niels Wittich and ex-WEC race director Eduardo Freitas on an alternating basis, assisted by former F1 deputy race director Herbie Blash.
Ben Sulayem announced that his plan has the support of the World Motor Sport Council and the Senate
He said: “These structural changes are crucial in a context of strong development and the legitimate expectations of drivers, teams, manufacturers, organisers and, of course, the fans.”