Wittich named permanent race director, procedures changed after review of Japanese GP

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Wittich named permanent race director, procedures changed after review of Japanese GP

Formula 1

Wittich named permanent race director, procedures changed after review of Japanese GP


The FIA has announced a number of changes it will make after a review of its handling of the Japanese Grand Prix, with Niels Wittich becoming permanent race director for the rest of the season.

Wittich has been one of two race directors this season, with the role rotating between him and Eduardo Freitas, but it was Freitas who was overseeing the race at Suzuka that featured a worrying incident with a recovery vehicle on track. The governing body launched an immediate review into the way the race was handled and has now issued its findings, which admit Pierre Gasly’s presence on track after a pit stop after collecting an advertising board (pictured) “was not immediately detected” and that triggered the error.

“The review noted that in such conditions, a recovery vehicle should not be deployed unless all cars are aligned behind the safety car,” the FIA explained. “Furthermore, marshals and recovery equipment would only be deployed while cars are on track (safety car periods) when the weather conditions and location of the cars to be recovered allow for a quick and safe intervention.”

Given the lack of visibility and wet weather, the FIA review “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.”

Gasly’s driving behind the safety car was also discussed, as he proceeded at an allowed speed to try and catch the back of the pack, but the FIA want the drivers to “apply common sense at all times” in response to track conditions.

The review has outlined a number of measures that will be implemented as a result of its findings, including:

• Information to be provided to the teams by means of a message via the official messaging system and communicated via the FIA intercom system to notify teams that a recovery vehicle is on track with the obligation from the teams to inform their drivers.

• Development of a live VSC/SC monitoring window to display the status of all cars, on track, behind SC, in pits to be used by race control and the Remote Operations Center (ROC).

• Race Control Procedure Update to better define the allocation of tasks across the race control team (including delegation of monitoring tasks to ROC as required) under SC or VSC procedure. In specific relation to this review, the delegation of monitoring of cars entering the pit lane under SC conditions and the consequent length of the SC train.

• The FIA race director will hold a review of the incidents in Suzuka during the United States Grand Prix drivers’ briefing to explain what solutions the FIA plans to introduce to avoid a repeat of the situation in the future and to remind the drivers of the rules relating to safety cars and red flags.

• Dynamic VSC: implementation of a new function that would change the delta speed required for the driver to follow before and in the sectors where there is an incident. This would aid the drivers to know where incidents have been declared.

• In conjunction with the teams, a review of penalty precedents for drivers not respecting the rules relating to yellow, double yellow, VSC and SC conditions will take place.

• Assessment of the current application of advertising boards, their construction, location and materials used to avoid the potential for them to being torn off and thrown on track.

On top of those points, the FIA will no longer rotate the role of race director this season and instead Wittich will do the final four races, while there will also be a review of the wording used in the regulations regarding shortened races.

Full points were awarded as the race was still running when the time limit was hit, despite only just passing 50% distance. The rules were applied correctly as they’re written, but currently leave the possibility of a one-lap race getting full points if it is started just before the time limit runs out.

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