Guenther Steiner has been fined €7500 for describing an FIA steward as “stupid” and “idiotic” for penalising one of his drivers at the Russian Grand Prix.
The Italian-born Haas team boss was found to have brought the sport into disrepute for his comments, though he protested that he had made them in the heat of the moment.
Steiner made the comments in relation to the five-second penalty applied to Kevin Magnussen’s race time, which the Dane incurred for leaving the track at turn two and failing to rejoin as instructed by the race director.
Sochi Autodrom’s turn two is a wide expanse of asphalt, so drivers who left the track there were instructed to drive around two bollards at the far side of the runoff area to rejoin the circuit, thereby ensuring they gained no advantage.
Magnussen went wide on the kerbs defending seventh place from Sergio Perez, losing the place to the Mexican. He missed the first bollard but rejoined via the second, but the stewards nonetheless considered this a breach of instruction and handed him a penalty.
Steiner and Magnussen railed against the added time after the race, contending that Magnussen’s loss of position was penalty enough for the transgression made in the heat of battle, but their exuberance was poorly received.
“If we didn’t have a stupid, idiotic steward, we would be eighth,” Steiner said over team radio after his driver had crossed the finish line. “You know who is the steward. You know him. It is always the same. He just does not get any more intelligent.”
The case was handed to the Japanese Grand Prix stewards by their Russian counterparts to deal with, and Steiner was summoned to a hearing on Friday afternoon between practice sessions on the grounds of bringing the sport into disrepute.
The summons quoted FIA International Sporting Code article 12.1.1.c, which refers to “any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally,” and 12.1.1.f, which engages “any words, deeds or writings that have caused moral injury or loss to the FIA, its bodies, its members or its executive officers” as a further offence.
In defence Steiner said he meant no harm by his words.
“Mr Steiner said that his radio transmission happened in the heat of the moment after a hotly contested race by his drivers,” the stewards ruling summarised. “In retrospect he regretted his choice of words used at the time.
“He did not intend for his words to reflect unfavourably on the FIA officials of the event and the championship.”
But the stewards nonetheless found that the transmission constituted “an insult to the stewards” and that it called into question “both the skills and the integrity of those stewards”.
“Such statements harm the reputation of motorsport in general [and] the FIA in particular and call into question the professionalism of the officials of the FIA.”
The stewards therefore fined him €7500, noting that heavier penalties would be levied for any further breaches of the code.