Former Formula 1 driver Emanuele Pirro is often hired by the FIA as the third steward. Last season, he performed these duties in Styria, Great Britain, Spain and Imola. In the interview, Pirro talked about his work and the criticism of the stewards’ decisions from the fans …
Q: How to become an FIA steward?
Emanuele Pirro: At the level of national and international federations, the steward is a volunteer, so I want to clarify that this is not a job. Stewards are racing enthusiasts who want to get involved in motorsport and contribute. There is a hierarchy to go through, starting at the national level. Passing through all the stages, a person gradually grows to the international level and finally finds himself in Formula 1. Usually, a novice steward receives experience and evaluations of his work from more experienced colleagues.
Question: How many people are there in the College of Stewards?
Emanuele Pirro: The Steward College consists of a chairman and two or three stewards, depending on the racing series. There are four of us in Formula 1: the chairman, the international steward, the steward appointed by the local federation, and the former driver.
Q: How many years have you been invited to be a steward in Formula 1?
Emanuele Pirro: In Formula 1, they began to invite former racers to the role of stewards in 2010 – I started in the same year. The idea was suggested by Jean Todt. He wanted us to get down to business immediately, without prior training. The FIA President wanted us to evaluate the episodes based on our own racing experience.
Having said that, I still want to emphasize the importance of training workshops and experience with other stewards as an assistant.
Q: Of all the riders who were invited to the role of steward, do you have the most experience in this work?
Emanuele Pirro: I think yes. Other experienced stewards include Derek Warwick, whom I have great respect for. The challenge is to constantly change the composition of the stewards during the stages to ensure objective judging. If the steward comes to the races too often, he may be accused of bias.
Q: What exactly is the job of a steward in Formula 1?
Emanuele Pirro: Usually the stewards arrive on the track on Wednesday evening and start work on Thursday morning. We circle the track with the race director and representatives of various services for verification. On Thursday afternoon, we attend a briefing for team managers. In addition, we are discussing current issues with the race director.
Question: What is the main task of the stewards?
Emanuele Pirro: Ensure that sporting and technical regulations are observed at all stages of the racing weekend.
Question: Where is the stewards office located?
Emanuele Pirro: The stewards are in the room, which is usually adjacent to the race management room – we communicate with them via intercom. No one can enter our room, while we have a professional technician with us who helps us to view video materials on four large screens.
We have real-time access to all recordings, including from cameras that do not broadcast the picture on the air. Cameras, radio communications and telemetry – all this is available in real time, if necessary, we have time to view.
Question: How many rules did you have to learn?
Emanuele Pirro: If we talk about the actions of the riders on the track, then there are not many rules. What matters is how these rules are applied in practice. For example, the term “dangerous flying” – it can be interpreted in different ways. Adjustments are made at each Grand Prix, with episode scores varying based on experience and what the riders and the race director discuss in briefings.
Q: How do you deal with criticism?
Emanuele PirroA: Many criticisms are based on ignorance of the facts. For example, they say this about racing episodes, which from the outside may seem the same, but in fact they are different. Failure to comply with track boundaries and maneuvers to force an opponent to travel abroad are some of the most controversial and difficult episodes in modern motorsport.
Question: Why, after the imposition of fines, the stewards do not comment personally?
Emanuele Pirro: I think it is right that we cannot comment on our decisions, because otherwise the situation will become unmanageable. The Race Director is holding a press conference at which he talks about the decisions made and explains the episodes so that journalists can understand everything.
Question: Do the stewards have disputes among themselves when evaluating episodes?
Emanuele Pirro: Rarely. If we are talking about some kind of maneuver during the race, then after watching several replays, the former driver immediately understands the dynamics of the incident. A steward who has no experience in driving a race car may take longer to figure things out.
Usually, the former driver explains to the other stewards the dynamics of the incident, but does not give his assessment so as not to influence others. Disagreements rarely arise, but there is always cooperation and a desire to listen to others. Much of the discussion revolves around what the fine should be, as we focus on past precedents.
In fact, we have a database with all episodes of recent years, with their analysis and decisions made. The videos available to us are categorized by event, violation and rider.
Question: What was the most difficult episode you had to analyze?
Emanuele Pirro: The episode during a race in Canada in 2019 when Sebastian Vettel blocked Lewis Hamilton. To determine exactly how much time Lewis lost when Sebastian pushed him against the wall, we had to study the telemetry of this circle, comparing it with the data of the last five fastest laps of Lewis. This is not a momentary affair – it took time.
Q: Do fans often confuse concepts such as dangerous driving and show?
Emanuele PirroA: I’m afraid so. Many cite the duel of Rene Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve in Dijon in 1979 as an example and say that now such a fight is impossible because of the “bad” stewards. However, if you carefully evaluate that duel, you will see that there was nothing wrong with it. With the exception of two wheel contacts, which are still permitted today, there were no violations.
Question: Which episodes are the most difficult to interpret?
Emanuele Pirro: When riders push each other off the track. The line between what is acceptable and not acceptable is blurred. Even directional changes during braking are often difficult to assess.
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