FIA facing Mekies replacement headache for F1 opener
The FIA is facing the challenge of finding a new F1 deputy race director just over a week before the Australian GP meeting kicks off, following the announcement of the departure of Laurent Mekies.
Mekies has been stood down from F1 duties following the announcement of his departure to Ferrari, and his predecessor Herbie Blash – the obvious candidate for a return – has other commitments on the Melbourne weekend.
Mekies took over the job from Charlie Whiting's long-time right-hand man Blash last year.
The deputy race director is effectively in charge of race control for the grid, formation lap, start and opening laps, while race director Charlie Whiting is busy with starting the grand prix from the pit wall and then making his way back.
This responsibility extends to making calls on red flags and safety cars.
Mekies underwent a period of training, alongside his other duties as the FIA safety delegate, before taking the race weekend role.
There are few, if any, obvious candidates within the FIA ranks who are fully qualified and in a position to take the role full time with immediate effect.
Blash, who left the job at the end of 2016 after a 20-year stint, has remained involved with motorsport, principally with the Porsche Supercup and a management role with Yamaha that he has had for many years.
He will be on Yamaha duty at the World Superbike round in Thailand on the Australian GP weekend.
However, it's understood that he could be potentially available for subsequent races, if called upon.
An alternative course could be to second an experienced race director or deputy from another FIA series, at least on a temporary basis.
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