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Who are the stewards in F1, and what do they actually do?

Jake Nichol December 12, 2021
Who are the stewards in F1, and what do they actually do?
Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

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They’ve been in the spotlight after a load of penalty calls in recent weeks, but who actually are the stewards in F1? Are they former racing drivers, and is Michael Masi one?

The F1 title showdown exploded into life on the first lap at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen collided once again.

Hamilton got a better launch to lead into Turn 1, as Verstappen gave chase.

At the end of the long back-straight, Verstappen dived to the inside, lunging Hamilton for the lead.

The #44 was forced off the track, using the run-off.

Despite Red Bull’s protests, the stewards declined to intervene and give Hamilton a penalty.

But who actually are the stewards? Who are they, and what do they do?

  • REVEALED: What happens if the F1 world championship ends in a draw?
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

F1 stewards role revealed

The stewards who oversee F1 are responsible for making sure the Sporting and Technical Regulations are followed at all times by drivers and teams.

They do not simply make up the rules as they go along.

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Instead, the rule book covers technical infringements – which must be punished according to the prescribed penalty.

For sporting infringements there is a bit more leeway, as the stewards will typically hear from the driver involved before making a decision.

How are they chosen?

There are four stewards at every grand prix.

Three of these are selected by the FIA from a list of qualified stewards – who must hold appropriate licences – akin to drivers and super licences.

The fourth member of the panel is put up by the country hosting the grand prix.

Since 2010, at least one member of the stewards panel is a former driver.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – NOVEMBER 13: Vitantonio Liuzzi of Italy and Hispania Racing Team is pictured ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 13, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Vladimir Rys Photography via Getty Images)

The idea was to give a driver’s view on incidents in the stewards room, as they will have felt or maybe done similar things during their racing career.

The likes of Johnny Herbert, Vitantonio Liuzzi (above), Derek Daly and 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell have all been so-called ‘driver stewards’ in the past.

Is Michael Masi involved?

As race director, Michael Masi is not involved in any decision or action the stewards decide to take against a driver or team.

Instead, Masi simply refers sporting incidents to the stewards, who then judge the case before them.

For technical infringements, such as Hamilton’s DRS in Brazil, that will be dealt with by FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer, who refers breaches to the stewards in a similar way to Masi.

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.