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Last season was pretty much universally acclaimed for being one of the most exciting in the 62 year history of Formula One but it wasn't without its low points. One of these came right at the end of the season, several days after the racing had stopped. Its legacy still lives on.
Three days after Sebastian Vettel's championship victory at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix footage emerged online showing the Red Bull Racing driver overtaking Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne whilst yellow lights were flashing on his steering wheel.
Closer inspection of the footage however revealed a trackside marshal waving a green flag which overruled the lights on the steering wheel and legitimised Vettel's move. Ferrari asked the FIA for clarification of this and although it was rebuffed, it cast a shadow over Vettel's win. It was gone but not forgotten.
Talking to Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt three-time champion Sir Jackie Stewart opened fire on F1's governing body the FIA saying that it needs to make changes to its structure to boost the sport's credibility. According to Stewart, appointing a permanent steward should be at the top of the priority list.
"Was the judgement of yellow and green flags right or wrong in Brazil and why would that have to come up on a Wednesday or Thursday? That is a huge statement of a disorganised function that it should come up then. The whole world is celebrating a new world champion and then that happens on a Wednesday. That is a poor declaration of management," says Stewart.
He puts the confusion down to the lack of the same stewards at every race. "How can you possibly have four different stewards at every Grand Prix? Why have you not got one professional?" he says adding that what is needed is "one man who goes to every race who is going to make consistent judgements and has got authority."
At the start of the 2006 season British lawyer Tony Scott Andrews was appointed by the FIA as F1's permanent chief steward and he officiated at every race until stepping down from the position at the end of 2007. Scott Andrews was not replaced and there are now four stewards per race including one former driver.
The addition of a former driver to the line-up is one of the decisions which has been driven by FIA president Jean Todt who took over from his controversial predecessor Max Mosley in 2009. "I am surprised how silent Todt has been," says Stewart adding "I expected him to have more presence. I don't know whether he is biding his time. I don't think he is by any means not smart so there must be a reason."
Responding to Stewart's salvo an FIA spokesman says that the uncertainty over the outcome of the Brazilian Grand Prix "was not a lack of management as there was no case to answer. Race control did not refer this to stewards because it was not deemed to be an incident." Many would agree but for some this will always be one of those incidents which is not so easy to forget.
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