You might have been frustrated and disappointed with the outcome of the calamity that was the 2021 FIA Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix in just the same way as most of us were, but race director Michael Masi should not be made the scapegoat.
Who could imagine anyone feeling comfortable with the much-anticipated return to battle after the month-long enforced summer hiatus scheduled for 44 laps at the glorious Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps being declared a race and half points awarded after being under the control of the safety car and for just three laps?
Nevertheless, according to the system, the sequence of events that transpired, the processes followed, and the result declared was indeed in complete accordance with the rules, and Masi had very little choice in directing the proceedings in any other way.
Contrary to what many of us might think, the role of Race Director is not only one of great understanding of the regulations and responsibility, but it is also a role almost void of any discretion whatsoever.
The Race Director controls and directs the entire FIA process for the whole of an F1 race weekend and needs have a complete enough understanding of not just the complex F1 specific FIA Technical, Sporting, and Financial Regulations, but also the highly complex FIA International Sporting Code, and to be able to administer them in an ‘on-the-fly’ manner during the race.
It is irrelevant that the weather conditions created a scenario where it was too risky to the safety of the drivers, marshals, and spectators to release the cars from the control of the Safety Car to compete, because the system that was being administered correctly resulted in a perceived indecisiveness and a result being declared without any competition at all exposed the system as inadequate.
One of the cornerstones of any quality management system worth a pinch of salt, be it technical, business, or bureaucratic, is the philosophy of, ‘Don’t blame the person, blame the system’, and this is how we must treat what happened yesterday at Stavelot.
A proper quality management system would certainly view yesterday as a non-conformance, but not a process non-conformance, because the processes were followed in accordance with the regulations, but rather something deeper and somewhat more complex, a system non-conformance.
In a simpler description, the processes are the steps in navigating a system.
In the event of a non-conformance being identified, as it was yesterday, a proper quality management system would conduct a root cause(s) analysis conducted by a properly set up team who would then report back with their findings and any recommendations in rectifying the determined root cause(s).
There is very little doubt that Masi applied the code to the letter of the law yesterday, and it is that code that is at the root of our frustrations, the very same code that has barely changed since the 1980’s, or even longer.
Michael Masi has plenty of cynics out there, but in the context of Sunday, the challenge for them to defy the logic that Masi indeed performed his role in accordance with the FIA regulations and codes would be very difficult to do. Otherwise, not only is the criticism unfounded, but outright unfair.
In the case of the FIA, the systemic failure yesterday is one that demands due process in some sort of correction or reformation to the International Sporting Code.
And for the rest of us disappointed with what happened yesterday, maybe we should remember that in the end no one is remembered for their mistakes, but rather what they do about them.
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