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Russell calls for FIA to stick to one F1 race director

George Russell believes the FIA needs to stick to a single race director and have greater accountability for stewards after a heated Formula 1 drivers’ briefing on Friday.

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG, on the grid

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG, on the grid

Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

The FIA handed Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel a suspended €25,000 fine over his behaviour in Friday's briefing at the Red Bull Ring, which is understood to have seen tensions flare over how races are being officiated, resulting in Vettel storming out.

Since the start of the season and the axing of former race director Michael Masi, the FIA has used two race directors, rotating between Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas.

But the rotation has led to the consistency of decisions and penalties coming into question, as well as some uncertainty from drivers over racing rules on-track.

Speaking after Vettel’s summons was issued by the FIA, Mercedes F1 driver and GPDA director Russell said there “needs to be an element of consistency” in decisions, noting there have been “a lot of borderline decisions or manoeuvres” so far this season.

Asked if the rotation of race directors was a problem, Russell replied: “Yes, I do agree that we need to stick to one race director.

“We need to have a bit more consistency with the stewarding. We come to the following event and often the steward in the previous event is not there. So there's no accountability, no explanations of decisions.

“We ask questions, and it's difficult to get a straightforward answer because almost a bit blame is being put onto somebody else who isn't there.

“So it is tricky. Everybody’s got their own interpretations.”

Niels Wittich, Race Director, FIA

Niels Wittich, Race Director, FIA

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

The FIA moved to restructure its race operations in the wake of the controversial end of the 2021 season when Masi failed to implement at least two articles of the sporting regulations, resulting in the last-lap restart that saw Max Verstappen pass Lewis Hamilton to win the championship.

This included the rotation between Wittich and Freitas, as well as the introduction of a new virtual race control room. The late Charlie Whiting’s former deputy, Herbie Blash, also returned to the FIA as a senior advisor.

Russell accepted that it was “by no means an easy job” for the officials, but stressed the need for consistency.

“Over the course of the year, a number of drivers commented on that,” Russell said.

“I think when you've got one race director, things can generally be more consistent.”

Wittich has served as the race director for the majority of races this year, and has appeared to take a far stricter approach with drivers compared to previous years.

This has extended to topics such as wearing jewellery or the correct underwear in the car, leading to some frustration from drivers.

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