Formula One: Lewis Hamilton calls for 'non-biased' stewards

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton drives during the first day of F1 pre-season testing in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb 23, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (REUTERS) - Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton called on Formula One to bring in "non-biased" race stewards, saying friendships between some of them and certain drivers had influenced their decision-making.

The Briton, who said he had lost faith in the sport's governance following the controversial safety car call in last year's Abu Dhabi finale that denied him an unprecedented eighth title, did not name any stewards or driver.

He also did not specify any incidents where a biased decision had gone against him.

"Race drivers, some are very, very good friends with certain individuals, some travel with certain individuals and tend to take a more keen liking to some of them," the 37-year-old told a news conference on the opening day of pre-season running in Barcelona on Wednesday.

"So I think (F1 should appoint) just people ... that have just no bias and (are) super central when it comes to making decisions," said the Briton, adding he would also like to see greater female representation among the stewards.

Formula One races are policed by a rotating panel of stewards whose responsibility it is to rule on incidents during the race, which includes the handing out of penalties.

The Abu Dhabi safety car restart was the result of a call taken by race director Michael Masi, who has been replaced as part of a wide-ranging overhaul of F1's refereeing process unveiled by newly elected FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem last week.

The Emirati said Masi's role would now be split between the two alternating race directors while a Video Assistant Referee-style virtual race control room would be set up to support them.

But there have been numerous complaints about an inconsistency in how stewards have applied the rules, especially those governing wheel-to-wheel racing, which have grown louder with Hamilton's on-track battles against Red Bull rival Max Verstappen drawing so much scrutiny.

Hamilton's comments were in response to a question about whether the ambiguity surrounding the racing rules could be addressed by the new structure.

Hamilton's Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff called for professionalism in the stewards room.

"I don't think there is a conscious bias, to be honest," said the Austrian. "There shouldn't be a lot of room to interpret the rules."

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner agreed, saying: "You've got very complicated regulations that then leave room for interpretation.

"So what you need is clear rules which are then easier to police."

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