Mika Hakkinen is sympathetic towards the FIA and the difficult job they face in managing the increasingly tense title battle between Mercedes and Red Bull.
The 2021 F1 season has seen its fair share of controversy, and there has been much scrutiny recently over decisions made by the stewards which have affected both championship contenders.
This has ranged from Lewis Hamilton being disqualified from qualifying at the Brazilian Grand Prix due to the Drag Reduction System (DRS) on his car being found to have broken technical regulations, to the debate over whether it was correct for Max Verstappen to escape punishment for an incident with Hamilton during the race at Interlagos.
There were further steward investigations during the Qatar Grand Prix weekend, with a key talking point being the decision to hand Verstappen a five-place grid drop for failing to slow sufficiently for double waved yellow flags at the end of qualifying, a punishment labelled "harsh" by former F1 driver Martin Brundle.
FIA "in the middle"
Given how closely fought the battle between Mercedes and Red Bull has become, Hakkinen thinks that the FIA are stuck "in the middle" and have a challenging job on their hands.
"In my opinion, we are seeing a sporting war between Mercedes and Red Bull," Hakkinen wrote in his column for Unibet.
"It's a battle between Lewis and Max, team bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, and the 2000 people who work for them. We have already seen some tense moments and I know we will see some more.
"In the middle comes the FIA with an incredibly tough job to do. They made some difficult decisions in Brazil and they had to do the same in Qatar."
Hakkinen believes that the race directors are doing their best to maintain order whilst also allowing the title challengers to race.
"What it shows is that the officials are trying hard to take a balanced approach, to let the drivers race but also to make everyone remember that the rules have to be followed," the two-time World Champion explained.
"Otherwise we have chaos."
Following the race in Qatar, Verstappen has an eight-point lead over Hamilton in the Drivers' standings with two races remaining.
Meanwhile Red Bull have cut Mercedes' advantage in the Constructors' Championship to five points.
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