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Adam Cooper

FIA veteran Haywood returns in F1 deputy race director role

Haywood will take up the deputy race director role in Bahrain and at four other races this year, having previously held the position in 2019 and 2020.

A key member of the FIA race control team for many years, Haywood worked closely with the late race director Charlie Whiting and latterly with the recently-axed Michael Masi. He retired from his main FIA job in May last year, but retained a consultancy role.

Wittich and Freitas will work together this year to replace Masi, with each taking turns to do two consecutive events as race director, and then two as deputy.

However, Freitas has to miss five F1 weekends due to his ongoing commitments in the World Endurance Championship, including this weekend's Sebring 1000 Miles season-opener, and Haywood will step in on those occasions.

Herbie Blash, who served as Whiting’s deputy until leaving the job in 2014, has also been brought back by the FIA and is present at Sakhir in a senior advisor role. He expected to do at least the first six races.

Haywood first came to the sport as F1’s race systems manager in 1994, with timekeeping operations among his responsibilities.

After a short spell in the World Rally Championship, he joined the FIA in 2004 in the race control systems manager role. He ran the logistical side of the operation for Whiting, overseeing the issue of documents as well as helping to review incidents.

After Whiting’s death, Haywood served as deputy race director alongside Masi in 2019 and 2020.

Niels Wittich, Race Director, FIA in paddock (Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images)

It’s inevitable that Wittich will be under some scrutiny this weekend, and the presence of Haywood and Blash by his side will give teams and drivers an extra level of confidence.

“First of all, the most important thing for us as a team is going into this new season now that sporting regulations are clear,” said McLaren boss Andreas Seidl.

“And that it is clear how the set-up of the race direction looks like going into this new season. I know both Niels and Eduardo personally myself from the different projects I've been involved in the past, I had personally an exchange with them as well in the paddock in Barcelona.

“And then in the last two weeks, Niels started as well to go into the preparation together with the sporting directors of this first race weekend here. There have been several meetings in place, including the team managers’ meeting.

“And we’re now simply looking forward to get the season going and looking forward to work together with them.”

Meanwhile the FIA’s new race operations centre in Geneva, dubbed the virtual race control by FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, was tested for the first time on Friday.

It will be used to provide back-up to the real race control at the circuits, but will also have a role as a training aid for stewards and race directors.

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