Inconsistent stewarding claims "without foundation" - Whiting

Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting says suggestions that the FIA stewards are inconsistent in dealing with track limits are "without foundation".

While Max Verstappen remains angry about being given a penalty for cutting the track when he overtook Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap of the United States Grand Prix, Whiting says the issue is an open and shut case.

"We have to try to take a practical approach to this – there is an element of wanting to let the drivers race," he said ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix. "It is only when it is absolutely clear that the stewards need to get involved.

"All in all, I think the accusations of inconsistency are pretty much without foundation – the only time that it was absolutely clear that the driver gained an advantage [in Austin], the driver was duly penalised and that is really where we are coming from, I believe."

While drivers have pointed out that some rivals ran wide in Austin without sanction, Whiting has explained that live data broadcast to the stewards gives a definitive answer on whether or not a driver has gained the 'lasting' advantage that is defined in the regulations.

None of the other incidents of drivers running wide were deemed to have given the competitor involved a 'lasting' advantage.

"We can look at a particular laptime, look across, look at that mini sector time and then you can see whether or not the driver gained an advantage," said Whiting about the stewards' system.

"We do that whenever we see any of those excursions off the track, particularly at Turn 19. We did that during qualifying and we saw nothing that gave us any cause for concern. We can do that during a race as well.

He added: "Leaving the track is not an offence in itself but if a driver does so he must rejoin the track safety and without gaining any lasting advantage. Those words are really important in this case.

"There were a number of occasions when drivers left the track during race and practice that were not formally looked at by stewards purely because no lasting advantage was gained.

"The point here really is that the stewards felt he had gained an advantage. He had shortened the track and clearly he was off track and he passed another driver at the same time.

"So for them the decision was quite simple technically but emotionally it was not so easy because the decision had to be made quite quickly."

New approach

Whiting said he would be more than happy to have a system that did not require judgement calls from stewards when a driver ran wide, but at the moment nothing suitable had come to light.

"It would be far better if we could come up with something, a system, a procedure, or features on that circuit that were absolutely unambiguous about whether it was faster, or not.

"The way to do that is to use very big kerbs, but of course they are unacceptable really. We have gone away from gravel now for years now, which has given rise to the kerbs that we have now.

"There is also the complexity of a track trying to cater for all types or cars and bikes and things like that. In COTA they go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the two can coexist."

Whiting was adamant, however, that taking a more hard-line approach to track limits and punishing any driver who ran wide would cause even more problems.

"My personal belief is that if you take what is a zero tolerance approach then you will be forever reporting drivers, because they will do it multiple times during the race and you have to monitor every corner on every lap for every driver to a very high precision.

"With great respect to other formulae, we don't need that in F1. We would be confronted by various videos after the race that people have taken or acquired from somewhere that showed he didn't go off – it was still on white line.

"We would have all these discussions and there would be a line outside the stewards office waiting to discuss whether or not they should be penalised. I don't think F1 needs that.

"If that is what the Strategy Group really want, and they want to develop rules to say that, then so be it. We will police it. But we don't have that rule at the moment."

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