Suzuka really brought to light how appalling race direction and stewarding can get. And I felt like this is a recurring topic that is spread out in so many threads, why not bring that together?
Let's start of with how the Verstappen/Leclerc clash was managed.
Verstappen and Leclerc make contact at the start, causing Verstappen to spin and drop to last. If they use a system where they inform the viewers when they note an incident, this is where I would already expect it within 30 seconds. But no race control information is given.
Before the end of the first lap, a replay is shown from Hamilton's onboard that clearly shows Leclerc understeering into Verstappen. At this point the minimum what I expect from a competent race control team is to get a message within 30 seconds of this footage: "Turn 2 incident involving cars 16 (Leclerc) and 33 (Verstappen) is under investigation". Still crickets.
We finally get proof they are awake: "Turn 2 incident involving cars 16 (Leclerc) and 33 (Verstappen) noted - no investigation necessary".
So they only take like 3 minutes to decide that no investigation is necessary, despite relevant footage proving otherwise was in the meantime shown on the live feed.
Out of nowhere a new message appears: they are under investigation! And how this happened is later explained by Masi
“Some new evidence became available which they didn’t have available at the time and they chose to effectively reopen the investigation,” said Masi.
“Originally, with what was available to them, they made a determination that there was no investigation necessary. Then they got some other footage which they didn’t have.”
Verstappen has retired by this point, Leclerc is running 9th.
Race control: "Lap 1, Turn 2 incident involving cars 16 (Leclerc) and 33 (Verstappen) will be investigated after the race".
2 hours after the race
Leclerc is given a five-second time penalty for the clash plus two penalty points on his licence.
Over to us
There's just so many questions.
- How badly is their working environment set up that they do not have the required footage and data to analyse such an incident from the beginning? It should just be there. End of.
- How can they initially conclude an incident is not even worth investigating that ends up with a 5 second penalty and 2 license penalty points?
- How can 'new evidence' make a difference in the decision of investigating? If you have a crash happening, and you think you might not have all relevant information, you shouldn't conclude within 3 minutes that it's not worth investigating. There's 2 damaged cars that went from the front to the back of the field, by default that should be worth investigating. The whole point should be to investigate all relevant information and footage until you can reach a proper verdict.
- Why do they need another 20 minutes to reach the conclusion that they'll investigate it after the race? Didn't they have the proper evidence now?
- What are these people paid for?
All these unnecessary delays affect the race. For the to-be-penalized driver it's often an advantage, because in the meantime he can either gap drivers behind, or if he fell back work himself back through the field. Often the later the penalty is given the better his race result. It can also be a disadvantage: it can impacts strategic decisions, for example Ferrari pitting Leclerc again near the end of the race. Had they known they were driving with a 15 seconds time penalty to come, they might handle things differently.
All in all, this is all just infuriating... I could tell on lap 1 from my couch with the replay of Hamilton's onboard that Leclerc had plenty of space yet understeered into Verstappen destroying his race. Why does a team of race directors and stewards need 4 hours to come to the same conclusion?
We're talking about a multi billion business here, a global sport. It shouldn't have this kind of incompetence. Stop hurting the sport.