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OPINION: FIA must wake up after Baku calamity

F1's governing body must now assess where its priorities lie after the latest in a string of frightening scenarios

The scary scenes involving members of F1's travelling media entourage and Esteban Ocon at the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was the latest in a string of near-misses involving FIA decision-making. Ocon was entering the pits at the start of his final lap but was met with a crowd of people at pit entry, with parc fermé being set up to welcome race winner Sergio Perez who was a considerable distance ahead. Luckily the crowd scattered as they rushed to avoid the oncoming Alpine, all escaping what could have been a serious incident. But with the situation captured live during the broadcast and commentary teams worldwide alerting viewers to the scenes for those watching, the scores of new fans being targeted by the weekend's alternative Sprint format will have no doubt been left in awe as much as F1 regulars. This is not the first incident in recent times that has caught the attention of drivers, team personnel and fans alike. It is time for the FIA to leave its worries over trivial matters behind and focus on regaining a sense of control over its functions.

It is worth noting that the work the FIA has done to ensure all motorsport is as safe as it is today is remarkable. Take Zhou Guanyu's horrific crash at Silverstone last season. The fact the Alfa Romeo driver was perfectly fine afterwards was testament to the extensive research undertaken by the governing body to evolve safety features and the failure of the roll hoop in that incident led to swift action being taken to redefine the acceptable geometry of the feature moving forwards. It must also be acknowledged that the FIA is reviewing the incident and will put measures in place to avoid a repeat. Parc fermé is overseen by the FIA's Technical Delegate and takes on various forms throughout the season depending on the host venue - Monaco, for example, sees the top three park on the start-finish straight post-race. But Ocon's incident was at best unfathomable, at worst inexplicable. Everyone watching the race was able to understand the Alpine driver was required to complete a mandated pit stop, so why did the representatives allow photographers into the pit lane? One FIA member was beginning to put a barricade across the pit lane entry as Ocon approached in what would have been a dreadful turn of events. It was clear that parc fermé was situated too near the fast lane on which the Frenchman was arriving. A similar incident occurred in Australia last year where VIPs were allowed into the pit lane when Alex Albon pitted on the final lap, so the warning signs were there. Another lapse in judgement, this time from a higher power in the FIA, saw a recovery vehicle allowed on track in treacherous conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix last year, evoking painful memories of the tragic incident that claimed Jules Bianchi's life at the same circuit eight years prior. Whilst the sport escaped another tragedy in Baku on Sunday, the lack of attention to detail shown is compounded by the constant drive to clamp down on such minor issues in the paddock since the beginning of the 2022 campaign. Somehow the jewellery saga largely pointed at Lewis Hamilton has filtered through into this season and team celebrations were targeted before the Australian Grand Prix at the start of April. Underwear was also under the microscope last year whilst the FIA instigated fury with a clamp down on drivers making protests or political statements during a grand prix. Greater care must now be taken within the organisation to place focus on critical issues that really matter before working its way down a list of issues in order of priority. An alarming situation occurred in Azerbaijan which will and must be quickly fixed, and good must now come from it.

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