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FIA axes system of rotating race directors

The FIA on Friday announced it will axe its vexed system of rotating race directors and revise Formula One’s sporting regulations in the wake of several alarming incidents at this year’s rain-hit Japanese Grand Prix.

Following a review of the race at Suzuka two weeks ago, where Max Verstappen won to claim his second drivers’ world title for Red Bull, the ruling body determined a raft of key changes.

These include abandoning the policy of rotation of race directors, ensuring that recovery vehicles will only be allowed on track once all cars are lined up behind a Safety Car following an incident, and a revision of the wording of the points distribution at time-limited races.

In its report issued two days before the United States Grand Prix in Texas, the international governing body said: “From the United States Grand Prix in Austin and the following races in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, Niels Wittich will assume the position of Race Director with the support of Race Control staff.”

This change was encouraged by many drivers frustrated by inconsistencies this year in the wake of the departure of Michael Masi following his irregular handling of the controversial last lap at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

At the Japanese Grand Prix, a recovery crane was sent out to collect Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari after he crashed on the opening lap, a move that meant the field were left to snake past with many drivers unaware of the hazard presented by the crane.

Two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Alpine said he did not even see the crane while Pierre Gasly passed it at close to racing speed after a pit stop. For the Frenchman, it was a terrifying reminder of the accident that claimed Jules Bianchi’s life in similar conditions at Suzuka in 2014.

The incidents in Japan occurred while Portuguese Eduardo Freitas was acting as Race Director, for the final time. 

The FIA’s review statement added that the decision to send out the recovery vehicle was premature in the conditions.

“The panel determined that in hindsight, as the weather conditions were changing, it would have been prudent to have delayed the deployment of the recovery vehicles on track.”

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