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Adam Cooper

FIA: F1 race control changes for 2022 a bandage, not a cure

Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas were drafted in after erstwhile race director Michael Masi was ousted in February in the wake of the Abu Dhabi controversy, and they have been alternating the role through the season.

Masi had in turn replaced long-time race director Charlie Whiting after the latter passed away just before the start of the 2019 season.

Wittich and Freitas were the most qualified candidates when the FIA looked for a replacement for Masi.

Ben Sulayem stressed that the governing body has to have a stronger team so that it can more easily adapt to the loss of a key player, including himself.

He cited the introduction of the Remote Operations Centre in Geneva as a key training aid in bringing more race directors and stewards into the system.

The ROC is in effect a replica of the race control layout at circuits, with the same screens and information available.

"I would like that the Federation, if the President is gone tomorrow or whatever happens, it's not relying on me or relying on a person, it has to rely on a team," said Ben Sulayem.

"And that's the only way we can make it sustainable. In one of my interviews I said where can I get race directors? I cannot go and Google them, or go on Amazon, you have to create them.

Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Formula 1, with Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA, Markus Duesmann, Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi AG, Oliver Hoffmann, Head of Technical Development at Audi Sport GmbH (Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images)

"And I don't want to end up by just having [one]. God bless his soul, I mean, we had a great loss with Charlie, but then we didn't have someone else. It cannot be like that, we should have more than one.

"I tell you what happened this year, it's a bandage, it's not a cure.

"And it's not a permanent fix. This is only a bandage, because we have to fill up the gaps. And then you have the stewards, we have to define also the stewards and train them."

Ben Sulayem admitted that the inspiration for the ROC came from football's VAR.

While its primary function at the moment is to support race control at the circuit by in effect providing extra pairs of eyes, the plan is to develop it further as a training aid for officials.

"We just can't be reactive, we have to be proactive. So I gathered our people, all of them. You can see it's like the VAR in football. When I spoke to Gianni [Infantino, of FIFA] he said we have now less complaints.

"So I said why can't we complement the people here [at the track]? Not a lot of people know how much the FIA does, the whole sporting organisation comes to the FIA, and the team is doing so well.

"So use the technology, bring it here, we work with FOM, and just let's make a better race. You cannot run F1 like F4 or something.

"So what we did is use the technology, which is user friendly, have it but make it active from Geneva, and here. More than this is, is the education part of it, is the training that we have."

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