Italian racing driver Emanuele Pirro is now an FIA Driver Steward – deciding if Formula 1 drivers deserve reprimands, penalties, points and fines for on-track transgressions – and was part of the stewards team which gave Scuderia Ferrari German driver Sebastian Vettel a five-second penalty that cost him the victory at the 2019 Canadian Grand Prix win, giving the top spot to rival Lewis Hamilton.
Emanuele Pirro has admitted that the social media backlash he received after the penalty received by the Ferrari driver in Canada later changed his life.
The idea to bring a former driver in the stewards’ room was introduced back in 2010 but two years ago Pirro was involved in a controversial decision after Sebastian Vettel, who was leading the race in Canada, went wide through Turn 4 and the Stewards considered that when he re-joined the circuit he did it in an unsafe way, forcing pursuer Lewis Hamilton off-track: the Ferrari driver therefore received a five-second time penalty and lost first place at the end of the race, generating widespread discussion in the aftermath.
Speaking on the official F1 podcast Beyond The Grid, Emanuele Pirro explained that outside observers are not equipped with the same level of information that is available to stewards.
“[It was] very much unpleasant, in a way it changed my life and also my perception, now my relationship with social media is very different,” said Pirro. “It hurts me more when I see people complaining. I think social media enhances the one characteristic we all more or less have which is complaining and frustration. I think social media gives the tool to many people to express their frustration, unfortunately not with the knowledge required to analyse certain things and so, that was really unpleasant. But more than all the insults that I had, it was because it was a straight-forward [decision], just people did not understand it and at the end the of the day, the whole motorsport of Formula 1 lost something because the majority of the world had a bad perception. So at the end we [gave] one [decision] to one racing [incident], [and] this was hurting the whole of F1 because it was perceived in an incorrect way.” – he explained.
Despite the fact that some some decisions could seem controversial and wrong, Emanuele Pirro stressed that stewards have to judge them according to the rules: “So this hurt me because I love the sport so much. I thought ‘for god’s sake, why don’t they understand that the one who has to win, has to win and not the one you want to win’. I think the whole world wanted Sebastian Vettel to win because he was going through a tough time, it was just a wonderful story. If you score and it’s offside, it’s got to be offside. Somebody has to take the decision to make sport fair.” – he concluded.