It seems Sir Jackie Stewart had a lot of words for a lot of folks at this weekend's AUTOSPORT Show International. The annual event is a great way for fans to get close to the racing world and there are usually Formula One luminaries, such as Stewart, on hand for a stage seat and Q&A. This year was no different.
Sir Jackie was a bit critical of the current stewarding format in F1 saying that permanent stewards would be a better choice for consistency and quality of the decisions made on race weekends. The three-time champion used 2012's final race in Brazil as an example of how the yellow flags and lights were confusing to everyone inside and outside the paddock.
As guest steward for the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix in 2012, Johnny Herbert has come to the defense of past and future Formula One stewards. Herbert concedes that a permanent solution might yield better results but that the current form does a really good job of it as well. Herbert told Sky Sports F1:
"One of the issues is that a lot of the stewards that go there don't get paid and you've got to start paying people then to start being there and sacrificing jobs. I know some of the stewards have other businesses and would they have time to do that alongside 19 or 20 races in a Formula 1 season? I'm not so sure.
"It is probably the best way. I'm not so sure that it is feasible with the situation they have at the moment. There may be ways around it but I'm not sure what they are.
"Consistency is always a good thing yes, but I think overall it has been pretty consistent personally. Yes, there are always going to be a few issues you don't agree with personally but overall I think it has worked very well."
Consistent stewarding has become a hot topic in recent years and it seems that the amount of 'avoidable contact' penalties has increased. Perhaps Herbert's own reasoning sheds some light on why:
"But racing is racing, and we have seen racing with Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso where they have been wheel-to-wheel and it was fantastic, no contact. But then we see other incidents like Lewis (Hamilton) and Pastor (Maldonado, in Valencia) where there was no need for both of them to get involved. Lewis was always going to be on the losing side because of his tyres and he just needed to take some points.
"Pastor on the other hand didn't need to make the move then and there as the pace was so different he could have overtaken with the DRS they have on the car, so you just have to think a little bit more. Why did he put himself in that position? I'm sure he will learn from it but it is situations you think as a Formula 1 driver they should be sure of what they should do and shouldn't do."
The issue at hand is the consistency in which these penalties are applied and when. If Herbert's logic were standard amongst all driver stewards, then perhaps the consistency would be more in line with what Sir Jackie is saying but unfortunately each driver has a different opinion just as each non-driver steward does.
On a final note, some fans feel that the stewards, former drivers or not, are micromanaging the sport and parsing actions that are made in milliseconds. Is there a way of creating consistency and efficacy in the stewardship of Formula One without paying for permanent stewards? Herbert thinks the current system is about as effective as anyone could ask for.