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How is the F1 version of VAR doing after almost a full season?

How is the F1 version of VAR doing after almost a full season?

05-11-2022 09:52 Last update: 13:46


Following the debacle of the race committee and Michael Masi at the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi, the FIA has reorganised the entire race control. This included the creation of a Remote Operations Centre (ROC). We heard little about it this season, so we take a look at how things stand with this F1 version of the VAR.

How is the ROC doing?

The FIA, where new president Mohammed Ben Sulayem had just taken over in 2021, deemed it necessary to thoroughly restructure the race directorate previously headed by Masi. From 2022, the leadership was divided between two officials, Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, they receive special assistance from Herbie Blash, and among several other minor changes and additions, a VAR of sorts came into being. This ROC could help with difficult decisions and also serve as a training centre for new stewards. We heard very little about this ROC in 2022, but after the Japan GP, the ROC did a fruitful job and the Geneva department is also doing well behind the scenes.

The great advantage of the ROC and its permanent residence in Switzerland is the quick and easy access to an extraordinary amount of historical F1 footage. Race stewards present at Grands Prix also have access to old footage to compare situations, but at the ROC this is much more extensive. Therefore, the ROC is not so much and exclusively (like the VAR) concerned with the races when they are in progress, but is primarily a body that can investigate further and deeper into certain incidents and then give advice.

ROC played role in GP Japan investigation

In the investigation into the events at the Japanese GP, the ROC played a leading role. The Japanese GP was started on a wet track, leading to many crashes and very dangerous situations. The GP then resumed after almost two hours. After the end of that weekend, the FIA made rule changes. This was done on the recommendation of the ROC, which carried out the operational side of the investigation and was able to form a detailed timeline of the race. The ROC's first useful work has thus been done.

The reason we have heard very little about the ROC this year is because the FIA department is still in the building phase. However, it is known that big strides are being made under the leadership of Tim Maylon, FIA safety chief and former Red Bull Racing and Sauber F1 engineer. So writes F1 journalist Adam Cooper for Motorsportmagazine.com. Besides monitoring and supporting the stewards present at the circuits, the ROC's work extends further. For instance, the ROC was also involved in identifying problems such as porpoising.

Finally, Cooper reports on the ROC's desire to deliver well-trained stewards to the FIA race control in the future. With all the visual and audio material available at the ROC, specific and challenging racing simulations can be created in which aspiring stewards can be properly tested and trained.