Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Driving Standards and setting the wrong precedent.

I said after the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend that I was very tempted to blog about GP2 driving standards but chose not to. It is a topic I feel passionately about and based on social media this weekend, I think it is a topic that you at home feel passionately about too. In fact it is not often I feel compelled to write negatively about something but after witnessing GP2 driver Johnny Cecotto Jnr side swipe Sergio Canamasas at the weekend and not get a penalty, I felt incensed. 

The reason I've decided to blog about this is firstly because I do not think I'm the only one who feels aggrieved and secondly because I feel the situation needs addressing. It is a tough subject to broach without naming individuals but Johnny Cecotto Jnr is a repeat offender. However, it is not my intent to name and shame drivers as I do not feel it is productive.

I strongly believe, in all sports, that relying solely on the individual to show sportsmanship, grace and honesty, in this modern era, is wrong. Yes, we can and should expect those on show to have a moral obligation to the organisers, sponsors and fans to behave sportingly but we cannot rely on it. What we can and should rely on is the rules and regulations to be implemented properly. Then, should an individual stray away from their moral compass, they are instantly corrected and punished accordingly. If this concept is followed correctly then we would not be feeling cheated or aggrieved, and most importantly the competitors would have more respect for the environment they are competing in and those around them. 

I think I am right in saying that after Johnny Cecotto Jnr's display of petulance in Malaysia, many of you felt that his punishment was not severe enough. I agree, without doubt, that he was not punished sufficiently and it is no coincidence that two weekends later, his driving standards are yet again back in the spotlight. Surprisingly, he has yet again escaped unpunished. 

The precedent set here is alarming and a dangerous one in all respects. A GP2 driver from this weekend actually tweeted that driving standards were now at an all time low and I would have to agree with him. The characteristic displayed here is not too dissimilar to a referee failing to take control of a football or rugby match. From a players point of view, the pressure is palpable, and when you start to feel unfairly judged, or even worse that the rules and regulations are being unfairly exploited by the opposition without any judicial ruling from the referee, then historically it leads to players taking matters into their own hands; a reaction born from frustration and losing out. Unfortunately I feel that is precisely what is happening here in GP2. Drivers are straying away from their moral compasses as unruly driving is going unpunished. For me, last weekend was not only about silly mistakes but more about petulance and frustration. 

Ultimately, I feel sorry for GP2 as their name is getting dragged through the mud on social media because of mistakes made by the rules and regulatory body in charge of regulating the formula. I also feel if it was down to GP2, this might not be happening. In World Series by Renault, the structure and culture is very different. Renault operates a very strict rule of thumb when it comes to driving standards. But they have the ability to steer their own ship in this department whereas GP2 is relying on the FIA stewards to deliver continuity and equality. 

GP2 is blessed with another crop of very talented individuals this year and they deserve better. They are young, impressionable and fighting for a dream. That hunger needs to guided and challenged at times. Free reign will only end badly. None of us want to see that in a sport where danger is prominent. Something needs to be done to address this behaviour before it becomes the norm.

One solution I would like to see implemented is the penalty points system currently being mooted by the FIA. The Formula 1 teams have already given it the green light. However, three points for causing a dangerous accident is too lenient. With a total of twelve points on offer that means you can cause four serious accidents in a calendar year before you get a race ban. Surely that is too many? Personally I would like to see a three card system similar to what we see employed by football and rugby match officials. That way after Malaysia and Barcelona, Johnny Cecotto Jnr would have two yellow cards equalling a red now, resulting in him serving a one race ban. More minor racing incidents can carry a warning but deliberate acts of aggression need to be charted and penalised. 

The issue you still face, however, is ensuring the correct personnel are delivering this concept and that the system is also rolled out to the GP support series.  Continuity and standardisation is paramount otherwise the system will serve to fan the flames rather than quell them. Drivers need to recognise their mistakes or negative actions will result in consequences. The best way to do this is to instil into them that each negative action carries a consequence. Having a penalty system would mean that they would carry that responsibility around with them for the whole year.