Formula One: Are the stewards biased?

Making calls that could affect the future of the racing season is far from an easy job – but are the Formula One stewards biased?

It’s a difficult job to have, and an even more difficult one to appreciate. The role of the stewards in Formula One–like that of any regulation authority–has always been to act as the gatekeepers to a fair and equitable race procedure. Yet, their history has been tarnished time and again by calls that have appeared to blatantly favour one driver over the other. Now, hot on the heels of the Hamilton/Grosjean blocking incident at Silverstone, it’s time to look into whether the stewards truly have a bias when it comes to doling out penalties.

There is no shortage of times that championship-leading drivers have been handed out grid penalties due to gearbox changes or other mechanical replacements–Hamilton himself accepted one during the preceding Austrian Grand Prix. But things are a little different when it comes to penalties that should be incurred during qualifying rounds.

Following Hamilton’s evident block of Grosjean during Q3, the Brit received no penalty from the stewards and went on to finish in pole position for the upcoming Grand Prix. Had he been handed the penalty that he earned, the sport would have likely seen one of the favorites both for the track and for the championship relegated to a significantly lower grid slot, and much of the spectacle would have been lost.

That’s what the stewards have to contend with. As unpleasant as it is to say, they are still employees of the sport, and ultimately must abide with what is in the best interest of the sport–even if it means allowing someone to get off scot-free. Yes, it’s not fair, but neither is life. And yet the issue still stands; a paradoxical notion whereby the very entity which was created to promote fair play is in fact the one who maintains the current pecking order.

Unfortunate, yes–but also a staple within nearly every form of sport. What would any sport be without offering its viewers the cathartic opportunity to rant and rave collectively against a referee or steward? The stewards’ decision to penalise Hamilton is expected, yet infuriating–and that appears to be just the window that the stewards operate in best. And while Grosjean’s fortunes should be lamented, we are only deluding ourselves if we think that Mercedes’ “star man” was ever going to penalised for such a manoeuvre.