London: Formula One must have a permanent race steward attending all races if a licence penalty points system for drivers is to be introduced next season, according to triple world champion Jackie Stewart.
Formula One teams approved the licence plan at last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix and it now has to be rubber-stamped by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) world motor sport council at a meeting next month. The system will be similar to that familiar to regular motorists, with F1 drivers handed points penalties for infringements which - once 12 are racked up in a year - would lead to a race ban.
Stewart, a pioneer in campaigning for safety improvements in the late 1960s and early 1970s, told Reuters that the governing International Automobile Federation had to ensure any punishments were consistent. "I think it's wrong that the FIA have part-time stewards dealing with safety," he said. "It's not correct to have part-time stewards who have just been brought in from any other country for one or two races," added the Scot.
"There's got to be the same people all of the time so that there's no risk that you are going to have peak and valley judgements that are different. "It's got to be unilateral, with authority, with expertise and that person should be appointed and paid for. If you are putting penalty points in, then you should be judged consistently."
Formula One stewards currently change from race to race, with a former driver joining two FIA-selected officials. Australian Alan Jones, the 1980 world champion, was the driver representative in Spain on Sunday. The last Formula One driver to be handed a race ban was Lotus's Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who missed last season's Italian Grand Prix after causing a first corner pile-up in Belgium.
Grosjean had been involved in seven incidents in the opening 12 races of 2012 but has stayed out of trouble so far this campaign. Bans have been a rarity in the sport, however, with financial penalties more usual in recent years. Grosjean was non-committal about the points plan.
"It's difficult to say anything until we have a proper catalogue of what would be the penalty for different things," he told reporters when asked about it in Barcelona last weekend.
"It's a very difficult subject. It's not like on the road (where) if you don't put on your seatbelt it's three points, if you don't stop at the red light it's three points. Here what would it be?" FIA race director Charlie Whiting revealed at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in March that the points-based penalty system was under discussion.
"We need to get the balance right because banning a driver is a serious issue. We need to make sure a driver genuinely deserves any ban," he said. "We will be monitoring offences and running a (hypothetical) system in the background to see how it would all work if put into practice. We need to do that for a while."