Exclusive interview with steward Tom Kristensen
10 August 2011 – Having a driver in the F1 stewards’ office has been commonplace since the start of the 2010 season. In Germany last month, Denmark’s Tom Kristensen returned to the FIA role for the first time since last year’s Australian Grand Prix. The multiple Le Mans 24 Hour winner discusses the idea’s progression, exclusively with GPUpdate.net.
We had you back in the FIA stewards’ office at the Nürburgring – how was your latest experience?
It was good, it’s a good experience. I think it’s a very good idea and in the end I think it means the racing gets better, gets closer and more professional, with a lot of respect for each other. Having a driver up there, who can think in the same way, I think is very important in racing situations.
How are you selected to be a steward?
Of course the idea happened around Jean Todt’s forum when he arrived as FIA President. It then goes via (Race Director) Charlie Whiting’s office, so exactly how it happens I don’t know but this year it all happened before the season – who will do where is all planned before the F1 season starts.
Last year I did Melbourne, I got a call from Jean Todt just before the season started. This year it was all planned before the season; I did one at the Nürburgring and I’m happy to do more in the future because I’m travelling quite a lot anyway.
During the races we don’t see much of the stewards’ room, so what is the atmosphere like – all sitting in silence or having a chat?
There is constantly a flow (of conversation) going on, but at the same time you are listening because in the stewards’ room you have quite a lot of input, with different screens you can watch. I would say it’s the best place you can watch it from, apart from watching it live from the stands obviously, because we do a little bit of both. But from there we have quite a good insight into what’s going on and we are able to get situations up and running so we can look through these things.
In the event of an incident, can you review anything you wish or must you wait for FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting to submit something?
Basically, anything which is given to us comes from Charlie – he has a hand on it and sometimes it’s good for us to see something which we’d like to view. But sometimes it might not come as far as us, as we are there to judge anything which is deemed worth looking at. But we can also prepare a decision and sometimes they are quite easy to make!
Sometimes we get something from Charlie and can make a decision quite early, but on other occasions you prefer to wait for more material and then look at it after the race. Obviously, for Charlie it’s important that decisions are made by the chequered flag so that is how it stands and how it should be, so that’s always the priority.
Imagine a scenario when the other three stewards agree but you, as the driver, disagree. How much strength would your opinion have, in that situation?
I can’t go into that; what comes out from the stewards is a unanimous decision – we all sign the paper. But I am just saying that there are different people in the stewards’ room every time, some with more experience and some with less. I can only say that it’s important that it all works together and it’s an important initiative from the FIA and Jean Todt.
Having a driver there is really spot-on; I would say it’s really necessary that there’s one there with racing experience. At the same time, though, you need to have all of the parameters and know how to put all of these different situations into the picture in terms of having fair treatment, but it shouldn’t affect the racing; I think at the Nürburgring we had some great and close racing, with the drivers respecting each other, and I think that’s what Formula 1 and motorsport in general should be all about.
What we are yet to see since drivers have been judging is a permanent steward who attends all races; would that make for more consistent decisions?
Don’t ask me! All I say is that it’s important to have a driver there and I think it’s good that the drivers are different. Consistency in some ways is important, and I think Charlie Whiting is consistent from that side, so that’s important so the drivers know what they can and can’t do.
Then again, it’s awareness, it’s fairness, respecting each other and racing hard – that’s what should be done and if we can have it like that then there will be no problem at all. But sometimes there are always situations in which it would be nice just to put it down to racing incidents.
Will you be back in the stewards’ office before the end of the year?
No, that’s it for me this year. I’d like to do it again next year, for sure, but this one fitted well for me this year. But it’s very important to have a driver’s view on it, no doubt.
Tom Kristensen was talking to GPUpdate.net’s Gregory Haines