Following another weekend of track limits embarrassment for the sport, FIA president, Mohammed ben Sulayem warns circuits to get their act together.
It wasn’t just the sheer number of penalties that were handed out over the Qatar weekend but in many cases the lack of speed in which they were dealt with.
Following Friday’s qualifying session, Lando Norris had his best time deleted and as a result Oscar Piastri attended the trackside interviews, which came as a surprise to the Sky presenter.
However, in a further twist the Australian then had his time deleted which promoted Lewis Hamilton to third, just in time for the official press conference.
Thankfully, at the end of Sunday’s Grand Prix we didn’t witness the shambles seen previously in Austria, with only Sergio Perez being demoted as a result of a late penalty.
Nonetheless, the whole thing left fans, teams and drivers frustrated and the sport looking amateur. Again.
Keen to avoid any repeat, not least because it puts the FIA in a bad light, Mohammed Ben Sulayem is calling on the circuits to get their act together in terms of the track limits that have proved particularly haphazard this season.
“We had the same issue in Austria,” he said, “it was 1200 (violations). And I have to say, congratulations to the stewards because they spotted it.
“But is that the solution? No,” he continued. “The solution is to improve the track itself.
“I know some are resistant to it,” he admitted, “but to tell you the truth, if they don’t, there is no race. It is as simple as this. We can’t afford this.”
Adding to the embarrassment of Qatar was the issue with the kerbs that saw the FIA, in conjunction with Pirelli, revise the track limits at two corners, hold a special familiarisation session on Saturday morning and mandate a limit on how many laps the tyres could be used for, thereby enforcing a minimum three-stop strategy on all drivers.
“We have to work on a solution,” said Ben Sulayem. “One of the solutions is to make it slippery when they go off. Nobody can stop the drivers except the drivers themselves.
“We can think of the height,” he said if the kerbs. Does it damage the cars? Or maybe there is a possibility of putting some gravel, but with gravel, we have to be very careful. How deep is the gravel? Because you don’t want anyone to get stuck. And how big is the gravel? because you don’t want the car to be damaged. It is a balance.
“But I believe now it’s not a matter of ‘Do we do it? We have to do it. And we have to listen to the drivers mainly, to the feedback from them.
“I will have to make it urgently because it has to be implemented for next year. We cannot afford for it to continue, especially where we see it all the time.”
Asked about the use of technology, Ben Sulayem claims that the FIA simply doesn’t have the money.
“The use of technology should be there,” he said. “It is being used in a lot of areas, but the FIA needs more resources to invest back into the sport.
“I’m not hiding here,” he insisted, “we need more resources. I mean, it’s a $20bn operation here and we cannot run it on a shoestring.”
Of course, the $20bn was a reference to the valuation F1 claimed had been put on the sport earlier this year, a figure which Ben Sulayem disputed, and which in turn led to a legal warning from the sport’s owners.
With that figure in mind, the FIA president suggested a re-evaluation of the financial agreement the sport’s governing body has with its owners.
“Our agreement has to be better,” he said. “You have to remember one thing, we own the championship. I represent the landlord, and we lease it. Our mission is different to Liberty but we are in the same boat. We should not be running this big responsibility with a shoestring.
“We are transparent,” he added. “We tell people this is what it costs. People are bragging about how much each F1 team is worth, but the FIA should be free and have the resources to run it in the best way. Every time we are better, we make the teams better and we make the sport better.”