VAR in Formula One by 2022

The virtual race management in Formula One will change the traditional by eliminating direct communications with the teams and, in addition, incorporating the most modern digital tools, like the VAR

Forula One vehicle during a race

Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post | Onofre Zambrano

After the exciting end of the 2021 season in which Max Verstappen was crowned in Abu Dhabi, the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship is already preparing for its start next Sunday, March 20. The start of the competition will not leave its fans indifferent, as it will be loaded with important news announced by the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

The main novelty for this year is the VAR, a tool very similar to the one that has been implemented in soccer since 2017. This VAR is nothing more than a virtual race management, which will support the race director. This change was made known through a video broadcast by the president of the FIA, Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

The main objective of this change is to live more disputed and exciting races, seeing the adrenaline that was experienced in that valid final in the United Arab Emirates in the previous season. But be careful, the body that governs the single-seater show incorporated more changes to facilitate the decision-making of the race directors.

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This was communicated by a fragment of the aforementioned video: "A virtual race direction, a system like VAR, is created in the FIA ​​offices on the circuit. The race director will be supported with the most modern tools. Second, they will eliminate direct communications with the race director of the teams to allow them to make decisions in peace," reflected Dazn.com.

Favorable decision?

Venezuelan sports journalist Andrea Rojas, Formula One commentator, explains it as follows for Latinamerican Post. “It is a virtual control room that will be located outside the circuits that will also use a real-time video system to help race directors, because it will no longer be just one, but three.

The young communicator preferred to be cautious about whether said decision is positive or negative for the competition. “We have to wait for the season to start to determine whether or not this virtual room is favorable for the sport, let us remember that Michael Masi and his controversial decision in the last race of 2021 were key to the victory of Max Verstappen, generating the appeal of Mercedes and what is sought is that this does not continue to happen by limiting messages between teams and race directors to minimize the influence of this communication on the results of the tests. We just have to wait."

Masi is gone

About Rojas' note, it must be said that Michael Masi ceased to be race director of the Formula 1 World Championship and that, from this campaign, that figure will fall to more than one person, in this case in Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, who will take over as race directors in 2022. Wittich was, until December 2021, race director of the DTM and DTM Trophy. While Freitas served as GT and WEC race director for twenty years.

Masi’s decisions generated tension between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, and therefore also between his teams, Red Bull and Mercedes in 2021. The controversy was notable and this condition irremediably worsened in the last race of the season. After an accident involving Nicholas Latifi and with Hamilton leading, the FIA ​​took out the safety car. The Briton did not change tires and Verstappen, in second position, mounted soft tires to cope with Hamilton's worn wheels.

After the removal of the safety car, Mercedes were sure that there would be no time to restart the race with only five laps remaining. Shortly after, in the absence of one lap, Masi decided to split the cars that separated Hamilton and Verstappen and relaunched the race in a heart-stopping last lap in which the Dutchman overtook the Mercedes driver and deprived him of lifting his eighth world title, generating the furious reaction of Hamilton and Toto Wolff, executive director of Mercedes.

As Rojas indicated, Mercedes appealed Masi's decision and threatened to take her to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). However, they ended up withdrawing the appeal on the condition that the FIA ​​study the case and make decisions. Well, he's already doing it.

Other modifications

The race director will also be isolated from direct radio communications to reduce pressure. It will still be possible to ask questions, but there will be a stricter procedure for doing so, which means less freedom.

Although the details about who will be in that place and how the communication with Wittich, Freitas and Herbie Blash -the successors of Masi- will be, the novelty raises doubts about whether this new tool will help to solve complicated situations or, if on the contrary, it will make the resolutions more complex.

The application of this technology is also similar to what has happened since 2014 in one of the most important sports leagues on the planet: the NFL in the United States. In said event, all replays are supervised from the organization's office in New York and the officials located there monitor the games to select the best camera angle and directly assist the referees who make the decision.

According to the statutes of this competition, the objective is to streamline the process and ensure that the reviews are consistent in all matches. So, going back to the FIA, the race director will not only be able to select the best shots and angles in different situations that warrant it, but he will remember the regulations, taking as background what happened in Abu Dhabi with the overtaking of cars that were one lap behind the leader.

In conclusion, the race directors will have the last word, even if they are advised by other judges who are far from the place.