FIA stewards set to be less 'liberal' with first lap incidents

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FIA race director Michael Masi says it will "dial back" a little bit its 'let them race' principle regarding opening lap incidents, insisting F1 stewards will adopt a less "liberal" stance this season.

Stewards have typically showed restraint when judging first lap encounters or contacts between which in most cases were deemed racing incidents.

However, ongoing discussions with drivers - and Romain Grosjean's fiery crash at the start of last years' Bahrain GP - have encouraged the FIA to change its approach to how it assesses events that occur amid the early congestion.

"Based on some feedback and the ongoing discussions that we have with the drivers, and team sporting directors and team principals, there was a feeling under the 'let them race' principle we needed to sort of dial that back a little bit with regard to the first lap incidents," Masi told

"They will still be treated, let's call it, in a different way to incidents on any other lap of the race. So we're still taking a more liberal approach than what we would otherwise.

"However, not as liberal as probably we did last year. And that came about, literally, with feedback from the drivers and the teams through last year, who felt that we needed to just go back a notch. They didn't want to go back completely to the same, but dial it back a little bit."

During Friday's drivers' briefing, Masi showed drivers a few case studies from last season to better explain how the stewards shall proceed in the future, including an opening lap contact between Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll at Sochi.

"It's case by case," said the Aussi. "So there were a couple of examples that were shared from last year of things that would have more likely resulted in penalties.

"I did use the one from Russia. So that was a very good example of something that would likely have resulted in a penalty. Having spoken to a few of the drivers about it, even before the Friday meeting, and after it, there was no qualms. I think they're all very much on board with that."

Masi suggested the FIA's stricter approach would likely focus on clashes occurring after the first corner rather than in the middle of a pack of cars barreling down to Turn 1 after the start.

"The incident in Russia was one that we said would not be tolerated," said Masi. "Lance was the car turned around, Charles was the aggressor, let's say. So that was a prime example.

"If you're in a group of cars, obviously, it's far more difficult to apportion where something sits. But if there's two cars on their lonesome, and someone is wholly or predominantly to blame, it’s likely that it will be looked at a bit closer and not as liberally as it has.

"Don't get me wrong. There's still, like with every incident, always an element of grey, you can't go black and white with any of them, because no two are the same."

F1's race director also addressed the topic of late moves under breaking, an issue often at the forefront of drivers' complaints last season.

"With regards to movement under brakes, or late movement in reaction to the car behind, that's something the drivers themselves actually brought up a number of times through last year," he added.

"They said this is something that we need to crack down on, more and more from a safety perspective. And we're continuing very much along that road, which they're all in favour of."

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