Drivers call for overhaul of steward system

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The Independent Online

Formula One drivers have called for an ex-F1 driver to be appointed to replace the panel of stewards in the wake of contentious decisions at last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

World champions Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso agreed that having an official with F1 racing experience making rulings on race incidents was a better option than the existing system.

"For sure that would help, it would keep people more happy if every time we have the same decision," Raikkonen said. "To have an old driver would get more respect than people who don't drive an F1."

Added Alonso: "Probably there are too many penalties. Sometimes the races are decided by the stewards."

"It's difficult to know from the outside if you've never driven a Formula One car," Alonso said.

"For a driver it would really help to have consistency in penalties. We need more consistency, even if they are very harsh."

The comments came after championship leader Lewis Hamilton of McLaren was given a pit drive-through penalty in Japan for late braking in the first corner that forced Raikkonen off the track.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa was also given a drive-through penalty for colliding with Hamilton, while Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais was penalized 25 seconds and consequently a points finish for colliding with Massa.

The Bourdais decision particularly attracted criticism.

Williams' Nico Rosberg said "my personal opinion was for none of them you needed penalties — they were all just racing incidents."

Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella, a veteran of 210 races, thinks "the system has to be a little bit better," adding it would likely be raised in Friday's drivers' meeting.

BMW's Nick Heidfeld urged a return to the system of a single steward across the entire season rather than a panel of stewards which risked inconsistency.

"It was a lot more consistent and for me a lot better than what we have seen this year," Heidfeld said. "I don't know why we came back from that."