Safety Car, Yas Marina, 2021

Analysis: The four minutes that changed the destiny of the 2021 world championship

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Across a four-minute period late in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi changed his mind on a decision which ultimately determined which driver won the world championship.

After the Safety Car was deployed in reaction to Nicholas Latifi’s crash, Masi’s handling of the restart was always likely to have a bearing on the title fight between race leader Lewis Hamilton, who was poised to clinch the title, and pursuer Max Verstappen, who needed to pass his rival to win it. Once Verstappen had used the Safety Car period to fit a fresh set of rubber, five lapped cars lay between him and his target.

In Safety Car periods, F1 ordinarily gives drivers the opportunity to un-lap themselves. This is normally done via the digital messaging system.

When drivers did not receive that instruction after the Safety Car period some asked their engineers why. Race control then put out an official communication saying no un-lapping would take place.

But four minutes later that changed. The green light was given to the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen. As they moved past the Safety Car, Verstappen then only had clear air between himself and his title rival. The other lapped cars behind him were told to keep their position. Verstappen therefore had a clear shot at Hamilton and the lapped Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll separating him from third-placed Carlos Sainz Jnr.

A complicating factor for Masi was the time taken to clear Latifi’s car. Although this was a single-car collision, the operation was complicated by a few minor snags which held up the clear-up while the clock ticked down.

Safety Car, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, 2021
Hamilton originally had five lapped cars behind him
Immediately after Latifi struck the barrier yellow flags were waved at turn 14, with green flags being waved on the short straight to the next corner. The Williams couldn’t be retrieved until the track was under Safety Car conditions.

Once marshals were allowed onto the scene their first job was to clear the debris surrounding the car so others could get through. This ultimately prevented the need for a red flag, and took away one of the options the race director had.

Latifi had gone rear-first into the barriers leaving some carbon components strewn at the exit of the corner, as well as his whole front wing lying nearby. His car was opposite one opening in the barriers, but moving it across the track would have been more time-consuming and would have blocked the way through as well. Instead, a mobile crane vehicle was deployed to pick up Latifi’s car and take it back to the apex of turn 14 where there was another opening.

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It took a minute for Latifi to turn off his car – ensuring it was safe for the marshals to touch without the risk of an electric shock (although they came equipped with insulating gloves regardless in case there had been an ERS failure) and to then extract himself and move to a safe place off-track.

He then briefed the nearby marshals of the details of his crash. Meanwhile his front brakes caught fire, giving the corner workers another drama to contend with. The clear-up was delayed once the brakes starting visibly flaming, with several of the marshals without fire protections ushered away and jumping back over the barriers. It took nearly another minute for most of the debris to be picked up.

Restart, , Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, 2021
The lapped cars were moved aside at the restart
The first marshal to attend the car with a fire extinguisher did so from a position off-track, with the clouds of spray being produced by the canister reducing visibility around the car.

Another minute went by as they waited for that cloud to disperse, all while smoke was billowing out from the front wheels and keeping a haze around the car. They then had to check on the radio what the gaps were to the next cars reaching the final sector to know what time they had to head back into the middle of the circuit to collect the rest of the debris. A separate group of marshals, accompanied by the mobile crane vehicle, then came over to collect the car.

Four minutes after the crash, the car was finally in the air and ready to be moved away. When Latifi’s crash occurred five laps remained of the race, but the drivers were on their penultimate lap by the time race control’s message that no un-lapping would be allowed had been communicated to all of the drivers and shown on the television screens.

Once Latifi’s car was removed from the track and craned away it remained roped up in the air off-camera for another minute where the crane was parked and so could potentially have remained a concern for race control at this time.

Once that was done, all the marshals in that area of the track were available to attend to any further incidents and could be contacted on their radios without distraction. That freed up the possibility of returning cars to racing speed.

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Halfway around the next lap, race control told the five drivers between Hamilton and Verstappen in the Safety Car queue they could un-lap themselves. This departed from convention in several ways.

Race control messages from restart

18:21Safety Car deployed
18:23Double yellow in track sector 15
18:27Lapped cars will not be allowed to overtake
18:31Lapped cars 4 (NOR) – 14 (ALO) – 31 (OCO) – 16 (LEC) – 5 (VET) to overtake Safety Car
18:31Safety Car in this lap
18:31Clear in track sector 17
18:31Clear in track sector 15
18:32Track clear

The standard procedure is for at least a lap to be given for those cars to circulate and return to the rear of Safety Car queue if possible, but the five were given just over a minute to sprint away in non-racing conditions – the race was still being run behind the safety car so they couldn’t pass one another and had to maintain a somewhat reduced pace – before Hamilton led the front of the field away.

As McLaren’s Lando Norris said, bringing Hamilton and Verstappen together on track for a final-lap restart looked like it was made “for TV”. It also ignored the strategic decisions teams had made based on the FIA communicating that no passing would take place.

Norris’ lapped team mate Daniel Ricciardo darted into the pits as Verstappen did behind the Safety Car and lost two positions to Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, expecting he would have a chance to make them up as soon as they would have to get out of Verstappen’s way with blue flags on the restart lap.

But Masi decided to give those two cars a 70-second head start on Verstappen and Ricciardo. The motivation behind this was to ensure the race concluded with a green flag lap, an outcome Masi later said the teams had previously agreed was “highly desirable”.

Arguably, reversing his earlier decision to let some cars un-lap themselves delayed the resumption of the race because radio communications then had to be made across the circuit to make sure marshals were aware that several cars would be going by at a faster speed while they were still required to show the Safety Car board. The usual advanced notice of a full lap before a restart, rather than seven corners, is for the good of those trackside operators as much as it is the drivers seeking to get back on the lead lap.

Once the FIA announced it would return the race to green flag conditions, it had to do so. And if race control felt the only way to do that and to direct the race to make sure it concluded safely and uniformly was to let five cars un-lap themselves, then it was doing its job correctly, albeit with direct interference in the on-track action that disproportionately impacted drivers in a way never seen before.

Mercedes protested the race result on these grounds, claiming a breach of Article 48.12 of the sporting regulations. The penultimate paragraph of that article begins: “Having overtaken the cars on the lead lap and the Safety Car these cars should then proceed around the track at an appropriate speed, without overtaking, and make every effort to take up position at the back of the line of cars behind the Safety Car.”

The paragraph concludes: “Unless the clerk of the course considers the presence of the Safety Car is still necessary, once the last lapped car has passed the leader the Safety Car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap.”

Safety Car, Nurburgring, 2020
Report: FIA rejects Verstappen’s claim Safety Car was used ‘to make race more exciting’
These rules had previously been interpreted with some contention under Masi’s directorship in 2020 when the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring had a lengthy Safety Car period that bunched up the field and set up another Hamilton versus Verstappen battle.

“There’s a requirement in the sporting regulations to wave all the lapped cars past,” Masi said at the time when pressed on why five laps of Safety Car running had been needed then to clear a smoking car parked next to a barrier opening. That statement was made after Verstappen said he thought the reasoning behind the Safety Car was “they just wanted to make it more exciting again because of the gaps”.

Red Bull’s representative at the hearing on Mercedes’ Abu Dhabi protest provided the argument that the regulation could be interpreted as not requiring all cars to un-lap themselves. The stewards ultimately rejected Mercedes’ protest but conceded in their explanation that “Article 48.12 may not have been applied fully”.

The result of that appeal therefore suggests that the FIA didn’t stray overtly away from its own rules when making such a controversial decision. But given how unexpected it was – and the fact that the signal that the Safety Car was returning to the pit lane came moments after the five drivers were told they could un-lap themselves – it points more to the rules being far too open for interpretation to a point where to many it looked like the show was prioritised at the expense of sporting integrity.

Race directors always have to think on their feet. Latifi’s car clear-up did provide more challenges than was perhaps obvious to television viewers and even to the Red Bull pit-wall who complained about the length of the Safety Car period. The speed at which the marshals could work both ruled out the need for the last resort of a total stoppage while also leaving insufficient time for lapped cars to be cleared out of the way in line with past practice.

That set up the prospect of the F1 world championship concluding behind Bernd Maylander’s Aston Martin Vantage. Clearly that was considered undesirable, prompting the contentious restart decision.

The stewards’ account of Masi’s evidence in the hearing on Mercedes’ protest said he decided “to remove those lapped cars that would ‘interfere’ in the racing between the leaders.” Whether that decision was consistent with the FIA’s rules and Masi’s previous interpretation of them will no doubt be a focus of Mercedes’ appeal – if they choose to proceed with one.

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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197 comments on “Analysis: The four minutes that changed the destiny of the 2021 world championship”

  1. I was doing a bit of an ivestigation of my own on F1TV, here’s what I’ve found.

    With 2.5 laps to go at T5 it is announced that lapped cars will not be allowed to overtake. The field is bunched up at T5 except for GAS, who catches up at T6. At this point marshals are still on the track.

    On the same lap at T14 the marshals jump out of the track as the bunched-up field goes by, the track seems clear as the last car (GAS) goes by.

    But it takes until T8 of the next lap until cars are allowed to unlap themselves. In my estimate, roughly 1:15 after they theoretically could have started unlapping on the start-finish straight.


    1. That will be related to things that can’t necessarily be seen on the track, such as the car hanging in mid-air on a crane. Safety for drivers and marshalls comes first, so I doubt there was an unreasonable delay. Just one unseen by track-side cameras.

      1. Yeah, that’s what I’m wondering.. Whether the delay was caused by something like this or by the previous decision not to allow unlapping.

    2. Thanks for that comment JL. It’s exactly what I have been wondering about after reading multiple articles in different sites, all stating that there was not sufficient time for all lapped cars to unlap themselves. But was that really the case? Hope to see more of that, including some graphs. It seems that the 2 cars that were not allowed to overtake were positioned directly behind VER, which I believe means that letting them through would have taken maybe additional 5 seconds or so. It also seams to me that the decision to let lapped cars overtake could have been made a bit earlier (about a minute as per your observation) which would also allow for all (or “any” :-) ) of them to pass while still having enough time to complete a racing lap under green conditions. Would love to have additional analysis on that from F1 Fanatic writers, as it could add different perspective on the topic of the “fairness” of the outcome of having a green lap with VER directly behind Hamilton.
      Also, on a separate note, I’ve seen on multiple platforms including here, the comment that the initial communication from Race Control that lapped cars would not be allowed to overtake had impact on MER strategy call whether to pit or not, however, this does not seem to be the case to me. Correct me if I’m wrong, but by the time this message was relayed to the teams, the field was already bunched together, meaning that a pit stop would have put HAM somewhere around the back of the train, not just behind VER.

    3. Correct, I noticed the same. It could be that we didn’t see something but more likely, Masi needs to tell the marshals that there will be cars coming at them at full speed.

      I think had they allowed the unlapping 1 second before safety car starting lap 57, the whole thing would be 100% in line with regulations. One could say that Masi’s only mistake, although understandable, was to get the messages a bit too late. Had all the comms been done at the end of lap 56, everything would be fine. In legal world, there is “substance over form” principle. I guess this explains why we saw what we saw. The messages got slightly delayed, and that had cascading effect. I wonder how much of delay was caused by both Toto’s and Christian’s calls to Masi.

    4. Those marshals are needed “in duty”. Probably they were still busy with the craned car. I believe they need to confirm the readiness of the track and theirselves, before race control gives signal to unlap.

      Anyhow its too late to restart without rule-breach, as soon as the next lap has started before “any” unlapping cars have passed the safety car. So no matter, whether the unlapping signal was given in T1 or T8.

    5. I noticed this too, I know nothing of Marshall protocols but I can only imagine this delay might be due to all Marshalls needing to confirm they are back in position and ready. Otherwise Iagree it seems like the decision to unlap could have been made for all with a restart on the last lap.

    6. Mind you, the audio messages in F1TV have a delay of about 2 seconds. Sometimes you can see a driver pushing the radio button an 2-3 seconds later you hear the driver.

      IMO the unlapping should be done differently; let the cars fall back to their race position behind the SC instead of unlapping themselves by passing the SC.

  2. to a point where to many it looked like the show was prioritised at the expense of sporting integrity

    I don’t think there is any “looked like” about it. The entire reason for trying to finish under green conditions is for the show rather than “sporting integrity”, and everybody knows that. So, the decision to throw away all established precedent and procedure to finish under green conditions, whether allowed by the rules or not, is by definition prioritising the show over sporting integrity.

    1. I think the “looked like” phrase is only there because there is no hard proof (confirmed from multiple sources with real knowledge) available to (or other media outlet) to say it without that @drmouse.

      Hard to even think about other reasons for it.

    2. Constantijn Blondel
      14th December 2021, 12:43

      Mods, please disregard my “Report comment” for @drmouse … Sorry, dr., I misclicked again.

      What I wanted to say is @drmouse: both “show” and “sporting integrity” are undefined terms that may mean anything to anyone … I think they are unsuited for forming a balanced opinion. (And your opinion I nevertheless respect and don’t entirely disagree with – hence my apologies for accidentally reporting you).

    3. The entire reason for trying to finish under green conditions is for the show rather than “sporting integrity”,

      Its a race toto, so the sole purpose is to resume racing as soon as safely possible.
      The show is the race…

      1. I’m not saying that we don’t sometimes need to prioritise the show. Particularly when writing the regulations, we need to be able to put on a show or else nobody will watch.

        That doesn’t mean the race director should be able to change the rules in a completely unprecedented way which hands a massive advantage to just a single driver in the field just “for the show”.

        1. hands a massive advantage to just a single driver

          again, that was not the intention and a result of strategic choices Mercedes made.
          It still was a great fight for a few corners and straight lines. If Mercedes made different choices the result probably was different.

          1. Mercedes based their decision on the rules and those rules have been broken by race-control.

          2. @romtrain they could not know that the race would end behind a SC when the SC was called out.
            Nothing to do with knowledge of rules whatsoever.
            Is you want to pit you stop as early as possible after the SC was send out. Only then you can optimize the options available. They did not.. a choice still.
            In hindsight not the best one.

          3. Again, there are 20 drivers in the race, not 2. As stated in the article, McLaren took the same strategic choice with Ricciardo than RedBull with Verstappen, but by the time the race was restarted his rivals were over a minute away and he had no chance to make places with his fresh softs.

            A safety car will always help some drivers’ races and harm others, there’s no way around that. But what we saw last Sunday benefitted one single driver, who was cleared of any lapped cars in front, with no regard whatsoever for the rest of the field. I mean, Masi himself said so:

            The race director stated that the purpose of article 48.12 was to remove those lapped cars that would “interfere” in the racing between the leaders

          4. You can only make correct strategy calls based on a fixed set of rules. And Masi defined those rules last year in the Eifel, when he said “There’s a requirement in the sporting regulations to wave all the lapped cars past,”

          5. @erikje It doesn’t matter whether that was the intention, and for the record I don’t think that was the intention. I believe his intention was to put on a better show.

            Had he done so within the existing rules and procedures, it wouldn’t be legitimate to argue against it. It may hand an advantage to one or the other, but them’s the rules and them’s the breaks.

            The massive difference here is that he invented an entirely new procedure, ignoring all available options in the rulebook, and that newly invented procedure did hand a massive advantage to Max compared to following the written rules. No matter the intention, surely you can see that’s not right.

          6. Don’t bother arguing with erikje. Even on the rare occasion they come close to having a point (clearly not the case today) it’s always accompanied with so much bile and spite that you can’t take anything they say seriously.

      2. The show is the race and then we had Spa.

  3. Across a four-minute period late in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi changed his mind on a decision which ultimately determined which driver won the world championship.

    1. Verstappen still had to overtake Lewis. Granted, it was easier because of the tyre offset but he still had to do it. Lewis fighting back makes it clear it wasn’t an easy and straightforward pass.
    2. If Masi decided otherwise (not letting the cars pass the safety car) he would have determined which driver won the world championship as well… but then in favour of Lewis.

    1. Well, yeah. But in that case he could have easily just pointed to the rulebook saying it did not leave them any real option there @mcbosch.

    2. @mcbosch Disallowing unlapping altogether would’ve been fairer sporting-wise, the same for an SC finish, given how little race distance was left.

      1. A red flag would’ve been the fairest decision.

        We’d then have had 5 laps from the starting grid with every driver on new tyres. That might’ve even meant Max and Lewis falling outside of the top 3!

        1. good point, but why would they fall outside of top 3?

          1. Restart crash, bad start, stall on the grid just to start.

            I agree that a red flag would have been the best way to handle this in hindsight, but even that would be an unusual decision. Red flags are not called so that the race can finish under a green flag. They are used when the safety car is not sufficient to ensure safety during maintenance activities.

            If the cars were allowed to unlap themselves immediately do you think Lewis would have pitted for new tires? I don’t think so. I think the greatest victims of Masi’s last lap green flag call were the lapped cars that did not get the same opportunities as those in front – not Lewis or Mercedes.

            Regardless of the result of Masi’s decision to start the race on the last lap or to let the race finish under the safety car I think we would still have an equally loud protest against the decision.

            I disagree with the conspiracy theorists that believe the FIA, Michael Masi, or Liberty Media engineered the decision for TV ratings or for a new champion. Prove it or shut up, please.

        2. How would a red flag be fair to Red Bull, which had earned the tyre offset by hanging around Hamilton’s pit window over the preceding 50-odd laps?

          1. It would have nullified the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen at the price of having the same tyre. Does not seem a bad trade-off at all to me, especially considering the situation in which they were before Latifi’s accident. The tyre advantage they had gained was not sufficient to close that gap…

          2. @steurui17 Yeah, that might be “fair” in a sort of negotiated sense between the frontrunners, but I don’t find it “fair” in the sense of keeping with either the spirit or the letter of the regulations. You can invent a lot of rules and negotiate a lot of offers that competitors might deem “fair” during a race, but we probably shouldn’t. You could offer a football team down a goal but playing against a team with their best striker sent off, “We could go straight to extra time with golden goal, but your opponent gets their striker back.” Depending on the circumstances, one or even both teams might consider that “fair,” but we’d find it a bit absurd.

            I realise this might be a minority opinion, but I do prefer the procedurally-botched outcome that we got to a red flag. In the regulations, red flags are only thrown if the track cannot be negotiated safely under safety car. That was clearly not the case here — unlike Baku, where there was debris all over the track. So throwing a red flag that cannot be justified on safety grounds, which would have allowed the leader to make a tyre change ostensibly due to safety concerns when there were none, would open the race director up to serious charges of interference as well.

            If the choice is between bending the rules for a late-race red flag versus bending the rules to wave around lapped cars a lap later than they should have been, an invented red flag offends my sporting sensibilities more, and sets a precedent that is more open to future abuse.

            In this case, the only procedurally correct option was a safety car, and the fair and correct outcomes in play ranged from a restart with no lapped cars to a restart with lapped cars to no restart at all. If the track had been declared clear just a bit sooner, we could have gotten what we had — a fair shootout — but achieved in the procedurally correct way. What we got was fair — in the sense that it was an outcome the rules were intended to allow — but achieved incorrectly. Since the track wasn’t declared clear in time, at that point, the only fair and procedurally correct outcome was to end the race under safety car.

            In a way, I sympathise with Masi, more than at any other point this season. The only outcome that would not have triggered a procedural controversy was starting the wavearound earlier. But from the radio traffic we heard, it sounded like he genuinely couldn’t handle the workload, and needs more people in the control room to help him carry out his role. Given that multiple drivers have said the track was safe enough for the wavearound earlier, if he’d left the backmarkers in place or ended under safety car, he would be still under intense criticism for interfering with the result. So at that point, he had the choice of an interference controversy and an exciting finish on track, or an interference controversy and an anticlimax on track.

            If Liberty were writing my paycheque, I know which one I’d choose.

          3. Since the track wasn’t declared clear in time, at that point, the only fair and procedurally correct outcome was to end the race under safety car.

            Er, should amend: If backmarkers were to be cleared, of course. Restarting with the lapped cars in place would have been procedurally correct and, I would argue, fair as well. But the latter would certainly be disputed because it would still open him up to the charge of interference for not clearing the wavearound earlier.

    3. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
      14th December 2021, 12:41

      2. If Masi decided otherwise (not letting the cars pass the safety car) he would have determined which driver won the world championship as well… but then in favour of Lewis.

      He wouldn’t be determining the outcome one way or another, he’d be applying the rules.

      1. Precisely. You are not deciding who wins by applying the written rules, especially if you are applying the same way as you have done in a similar situation before. Ignoring the written rules and making one up which significantly favours one driver over another in a way the written rules don’t (whether that’s the intent or not) is the race director deciding the result of the race.

    4. I don’t agree with the reasoning on #2. The race director can either let all cars unlap (and therefore SC comes in the following lap) or let none unlap. Both options are explicitly available. By the time the track was safe again, the only option left according to the rules, to get one lap of racing, was to not let anyone unlap themselves.

      That’s not deciding anything beyond choosing the only available option. In the same way it was luck of the draw that Max could make a free stop for tyres, but Lewis couldn’t, it was luck of the draw that there weren’t enough laps remaining to let cars unlap themselves according to the rules.

      1. Max could make a free stop for tyres, but Lewis couldn’t,

        That’s an interesting theory.
        Lewis had about 12 se on max when the sc came out. Pittime in Abu Dhabi was about 23 sec. In SC conditions 12 s could have done it. So there even was a possibility lewis stayed ahead with fresher tires. But of course its a risk as always. For RedBull a no brainer, they had nothing to loose and gambled on a restart.
        But still a choice by the mercedes strategy dept.

        1. But Max’s hard tyres were only a few laps old. Mercedes ran the risk of putting Lewis behind Max and the race finishing under the safety car thus losing the title. They also ran the risk of putting Lewis behind Max, knowing how difficult it would be to overtake if 1 lap of racing were to happen. There was so much for them to lose, the only sensible option was to keep the track position and hope the race finishes under safety car or they don’t move the lapped cars and there’s enough of a buffer.

          Red Bull had a free pit stop because they had literally nothing to lose.

          1. Agreed, but it was still a choice made by mercedes strategy.
            In hindsight (easy) the wrong one.

    5. Except Hamilton had earned the win by dominating the race.

      Race control wouldn’t have determined who won the championship either way… until they decided to not apply the rules evenly and fairly, by letting only the lapped cars ahead of Verstappen pass.

      It was an incredibly cheap win for Verstappen.

      1. Dominating a race doesn’t mean you’ll win it.
        Verstappen dominated Baku and lost the win with a few laps to go because something outside his control.
        In 2008, Massa dominated in Hungary but lost the win when his engine blew up with 3 laps to go. And Hamilton ended up winning the title by 1 point.

      2. You could say that Verstappen had a win on his hands in Silverstone and Hamilton took it away by not following the rules and just making them up as he went along. Yep punting someone off is now ok? Karma; this is all just pure karma the universe has handed out in spades. The smugger you are the harder you fall and as Russel said, “you get what you deserve!”, you are going to live by that now Russel. :-)

  4. Thank you guys for summing up what exactly went on with regards to that rescue, helps put things into the right perspective. With regards to how to handle the SC, I guess it really is inevitable that the FIA, Liberty the teams and the drivers sit down and talk things through.

    They can (should) also tackle stuff where there is a different approach between starts, running behind the SC and red flag restarts to try and make things more sensible and the same where possible. And get a grip on how to steward and judge whether to “let them race” or penalise so that we get more transparent, consistent and fair stewarding as well.

    Nice job for the winter for the new FIA president and their team, I guess.

    1. If the stewards throw away any complaint then they are not ready to accept any fault in their actions. When can you then discuss.

  5. That set up the prospect of the F1 world championship concluding behind Bernd Maylander’s Aston Martin Vantage. Clearly that was considered undesirable

    Here’s the thing. Had this race been like Brazil, Saudi, or any other competitive race between the two protagonists I could sympathise with this line of thinking. But frankly apart from the turn one incident and Perez being a roadblock it was a bore. Max and Red Bull had no answer under racing conditions and so I don’t think many people would have been too miffed to see the race end under the safety car. It’s happened before. On the flip side, making incosistent decisions and ignoring protocol, which has led to the position we’re in now- is even less desirable. Some casual fans (family and friends) are still asking me “why” and my answer- even with all the analysis that has followed is frankly that no one, except Masi knows. Goes without saying he has alot of answering to do and unfortunately for him his position is no longer tenable.

  6. As soon as there was a safety car at that Kate stage, the championship would be decided by the decisions of the race director.
    Surely a red flag and restart would have been a fairer decision than the race director deciding that either driver should win according to their whim?
    At least that way, the championship would have been decided by the drivers.

    1. Had the race director applied the rules as written, he wouldn’t be “deciding the championship”, the regulations would. I know it’s a fine distinction, but it’s a very important one.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        14th December 2021, 14:54

        Do the rules as written clearly state whether a safety car with cars unlapping, a safety car without cars unlapping or a red flag should have been used? Do they also state whether Masi could have let the lapped cars unlap themselves on the lap prior?

        It seems to me as though that clarity is lacking and it forces Masi to make a decision.

        The rules should exclude him from making a decision (ie if a safety car is deployed, once you reach the final 5 laps, the race is immediately red flagged and re-started once the incident is clear) but that isn’t the case.

        1. @petebaldwin I’m hopeful that one outcome from all of this is there are written rules governing what happens should there be a safety car required in the last few laps of a race.

          I don’t think the problem is the clarity though – there were standard processes he didn’t follow. Teams could and probably did base their strategic decisions on those processes. But he’s allowed to override them bizarrely, that’s the real issue. I’m not against the provision for the race director to act in this way, but only for safety reasons, not for “the show”.

        2. To be completely honest, unless he could argue that letting the cars unlap themselves wasn’t safe, he didn’t really have much choice. The rules are worded such that, if it is safe to do so, all cars must be allowed to unlap themselves and the safety car comes in at the end of the following lap. He could have tried to argue it wouldn’t be safe to try to get the lapped cars through in the time remaining, so left them where they were, but that’s about it.

          The rules are actually quite clear, IMHO, and don’t give the race director much latitude really. Maybe our problem is that we’ve allowed the race director far too much latitude in the past. For instance, I don’t believe it was technically allowed for him to give Max the chance to give the place back on the grid the other day, and it should have just gone to the stewards. But, because we’ve allowed him so much latitude in the past, he’s finally pushed it too far and decided the WDC himself.

          1. Yes, strongly agree with this. The negotiations in Jeddah seemed innocent enough and a genuine attempt to put things right in a manner compatible with the spirit of the rules, but they were contrary to regulations and should not have been occurred.

            The problem with trying to avoid penalties because they spoil the show is that it favours the driver(s) that should be penalised.

            I’ve seen the footage from Stroll’s car (he was lapped but not allowed to overtake because he was not in Max’s way) of that last lap and it looked ridiculous and not particularly safe. So I think the wording that unlapping should occur if safe should be taken seriously. Therefore no option but to end this one under the SC once the cars can’t overtake on lap 56. Safety cars are innately unfair and that is part of racing but the clearly laid out procedures are what makes then “luck” and not “whim of the officials”.

  7. This “race must be finished under green flag conditions” sounds like a WWE argument to me. Yes, it is desirable, but sometimes there just isn’t time for that. Races have been finished behind the SC before. Without Latifi’s accident the race would’ve had a dull ending anyway, since Hamilton had a huge lead over Verstappen. It wouldn’t have been more exciting just because they were racing under green flag conditions.

    1. 100%.

      Ultimately, I don’t think Mercedes will take this all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but I do think they will use the threat of that to put immense pressure on the FIA behind-the-scenes.

      Hopefully they can force changes that are for the better of the ‘sport’ rather than about improving the ‘spectacle’ which seems to be Liberty’s focus.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        14th December 2021, 15:03

        @sonnycrockett – I don’t think “better for the sport” and “better for the spectacle” are mutually exclusive. If the desire is to have every race finish under a green flag (good for the show) then the rules need to be in place and should be followed to the letter (good for the sport).

        The issue here is that a decision was made on the fly for the good of the show but any variance from the rules is terrible in a sporting context. You can create regulations that ensure the show is how you want it to be and as long as everyone understands what the rules are and those rules are applied correctly, there is no issue in a sporting context.

    2. Yes, it was a poor excuse. I think everyone agrees its “highly desirable” for as much of the race as possible to be under green flag conditions, including the end of the race. But clearly that doesn’t mean breaking long-established rules that teams may well be relying on when making on-the-fly strategic decisions, in order to achieve that outcome.

      I found all of Masi’s arguments at the original protest to be highly unsatisfactory. He did himself no favours and whilst I’m not in favour of getting rid of the referee as a general rule, I won’t be surprised if he is removed from that position for taking matters a bit too much into his own hands at the crucial moment.

    3. The entire [non-race] at Spa was done under the safety car. There seems to be so much room for interpretation of the rules that it’s not clear to me what a race is actually supposed to look like anymore. Maybe in the future they could simply announce who the winner will be and avoid all the messiness of trying to run actual races. IMO it wouldn’t be any less artificial.

    4. Arcording to Carlos the track wasn’t even ready and there was still debris not cleared

  8. That’s great reporting! More detail than I have seen on any other site.

  9. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
    14th December 2021, 12:37

    A shocking decision from Masi. I don’t believe it was rigged, just that he’s wholly incompetent. The Sky team were suggesting that the race might restart without shuffling the backmarkers, as that was the only way within the rules that it could be green-flagged early. Masi ignored the rules and handed Verstappen the championship on a plate. If even the FIA ignores the rules, how can it be called a sport? This felt more like pro wrestling.

    1. As you note, this is just the latest in a whole series of events in which the race director and the stewards have made the story about them rather than the participants through weird, strange and unprecedented decisions. Of course no top level sports is without the occasional incident involving referees and umpires doing weird things, but it has been a long habit of F1 and one that definitely did not start with Masi (who isn’t even a steward anyway and doesn’t decide the penalties).

      Unfortunately not much has changed under Todt and his director of motorsport affairs, but this years’ FIA election at least means new people will be in charge of these matters from 2022 onward. Hopefully they’ll use this winter period to take a long look at how F1 is run and come up with ways in which that can be improved.

      It’s unfortunate that this happened in the final race of the season, but as it’s just the latest case of the officials getting it wrong there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason to believe it was done with the intent to influence the outcome of the championship. And even if it was, Hamilton still went into the last lap leading the race.

      1. there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason to believe it was done with the intent to influence the outcome of the championship

        I don’t think that matters at all. Whether he intended to or not, he did influence the result of the championship. He either knew that what he was doing was not compliant with the rules or he didn’t. If he did, he purposely influenced the result against the rules. If he didn’t, he’s just incompetent: He’s run safety cars all the time, and the rules are not that complex. I have to know a greater number of more complicated rules off the top of my head for my job, and not knowing the rules would not be enough to save my job, or even save me from being sued, if I screwed up (it would count as negligence, possibly gross negligence).

        1. He’s on record quoting these rules after a GP last year so he’s definitely aware.

          As you suggested elsewhere I think the success of his “improvisation” during the suspension in Jeddah went to his head.

  10. Lewis leaving the door WIDE open at the hairpin is what ‘ultimately’ decided this years championship. If he had defended like Perez had earlier in the race, Lewis would be an 8 time world champion right now!

    Yes the stewards made a huge blunder (by not letting all the lapped cars through at the START of the penultimate lap, rather than towards the end) so if the rules had been followed correctly Max would have been right behind Lewis for that last lap anyway, it really is a moot point.

    1. Lewis had the best pace but it’s true that didn’t race well yesterday. In all 3 wheel to wheel moments, he was found lacking and was very lucky to not have a penalty over a more clear-cut penalty than Verstappen than Saudi Arabia.

      He was unlucky at the end but he also gave away the opportunity for Red Bull and Max to capitalize.

      1. Each time on that turn he braked early and put the car to the right of the racing line. In my view this was due to brake problems experienced since some races and secondly wanting to avoid any contact with MV. A DNF would give Max the championship

      2. @cobray if you’re talking about lap 1, that was never going to be a penalty against Lewis. Look again at the replay – Max missed the apex of turn 6 (the left turn of the chicane) and had 90+% of his car across the white line on the outside of the track. Max himself was barely inbounds (if you define inbounds as being within the white lines).

        Intentionally or not intentionally, he ran Lewis off the road. Cutting the corner was therefore Lewis’ only option and after Saudi I’m not surprised he straightlined the chicane as much as he did to make sure that Max couldn’t attempt another “give the place back but have DRS for the next straight” type of move.

        1. @skydiverian He was fully inbounds. Fully. It was the definition of an overtaking move. He left no space for lewis but in terms of the corner, he was in front.

          Lewis floored it and went fully straight instead of at least following the pattern of the road like Max in Saudi Arabia.

          “I’m struggling to understand the regulations”- Jenson Button

          And just for laughs.

    2. That’s a weird interpretation. The stewards didn’t make the blunder, they had nothing to do with the restart, please learn how F1 works. Michael Masi, the race director broke F1 rules with how he allowed only certain drivers to overtake.

    3. Lapped cars should not be allowed to unlap before the hazard is cleared and all marshals are back on their posts. If the rules would have been followed correctly, then there was simply no more options for a final lap without those lapped cars in between. Either the race needed to end under SC, or with the lapped cars in between.

    4. “Lewis leaving the door WIDE open at the hairpin is what ‘ultimately’ decided this years championship”

      Lewis Hamilton is not a stupid racer, we’re talking about one of the all time greats here, racing since he was a little kid. He left the door wide open on purpose hoping Verstappen would send it into the hairpin, because getting the tow on the back straight was Hamiltons only shot at being in front by the end of the lap. If Hamilton brakes as late as possible into the hairpin, Verstappen can brake much later on his new softs and closes right up on him at the apex, then he will also get a better exit with better traction on those new softs, that in combination with the greater top speed of the Redbull this weekend meant Hamilton had no choice but to give Verstappen the lead into that corner and hope to tow him back on the straight and fight into the next chicane.

  11. I don’t usually read planet-f1 but they just posted an article with evidence that could be used by Mercedes in an appeal. Masi said in Nurburgring 2020 that all lapped runners have to overtake according to the rules. So he contradicted himself and manipulated an F1 race by going against the rules he previously said he had to get follow. I think they should nullify the race result and award the championship to Verstappen and lewis, that would be more fair than what happened in the last few races of this season and especially the last laps.

    1. It’s mentioned in this article also :)

    2. if they nullify the race max still is champion. So that is not a solution the lewis fanclub will like.
      They are looking for an option to gift lewis the championship.

      1. I don’t think there is any precedent for what to do with a race where the FIA officials didn’t follow their own rules like this. I don’t think it can be assumed they would just nullify the result of the race.

        That said, I don’t want the result changed in court. What I want is for Masi and the FIA to come out and say “Sorry, we screwed up, and here’s what we are going to do to ensure this never happens again”. I don’t see any possibility of that at all, though, so the Mercedes challenge is the only realistic way to do anything about this farce.

        1. We have had races where the checkered flag was waved one lap before. Those are mistakes by the authorities, but they have accepted the race results with that mistake, and reduced laps.

          If that’s a precedent, they should come out and apologize that they made a mistake and yet the result stands. This will look real bad on FIA as this mistake changed the WDC.

          1. But that rule is to not disadvantage the competitors by their mistake.

            If the flag is waved early, some cars may slow down and unfairly lose a place, therefore to make it fair the race is counted back to the moment that the error was made and the race declared from that point. Up to that point the racing was fair

            Sound familiar?

          2. I think the difference there is that the rules state that, when the leader passes the line with the chequered flag out, the race is over. The nearest equivalent to that would be saying that, when “SC in this lap” is shown, the SC comes in.

            I feel this is very different, though, because the message wasn’t sent out accidentally at the wrong time, but purposely in order to influence the race. This would be like the race director purposely having the chequered flag put out early, knowing the rules didn’t allow it at that time. Even if they allow the result to stand, it must be recognised as a massive “miscarriage of justice” to influence the result like that.

  12. It’s really time for Mercedes to let this go, in my opinion. Yes, a bad decision was made by Masi under extreme pressure. Horner and Wolff added to the pressure with their highly distracting calls to Masi, so they are not free of blame here.

    What we are seeing now is Mercedes stirring up a Twitterstorm that is aimed at getting Masi sacked, and that is graceless and undignified.

    Hamilton initially made the right call when he got out of the car, congratulated Verstappen, and accepted the outcome with grace and dignity.

    1. What we are seeing now is Mercedes stirring up a Twitterstorm that is aimed at getting Masi sacked, and that is graceless and undignified.

      Masi has to go though. I’ve nothing personal against Masi, but he just isn’t competent enough to be the race director. The teams and drivers didn’t always agree with Whiting, but they all respected him. None of the teams or drivers respect Masi.

    2. Hamilton didn’t know the full story. i’m sure he’s supportive of the (potential) appeal from Mercedes.

      wouldn’t you appeal if you were Mercedes and Hamilton? it’s not a kart race, they can’t just “let it go”. it’s not just Hamilton’s championship. there’s millions at stake in Formula 1, it’s a huge invenstment. even if the appeal doesn’t do anything, if they don’t try it nothing will ever change

      1. Of course they appealed. The two appeals ( one really sad) are dismissed and that should be the end of it.
        Yes FIA F$#@d up again, but it is what it is.
        Next year Toto is no longer a teamboss. He will moveon to another important function in the team but not longer as teamleader. Its obvious the lack of Niki frustrates him and he is not able to function under pressure.

        1. Do you honestly believe any team boss would let that just be the end of it, if they believed they had lost a championship because the Race Director refused to apply the rules? Horner, Binotto, Seidle… Any of them would be challenging this, and IMHO it is right that they should. The FIA need to be held to account. They’ve been bad before, but this is so insanely out of order that I cannot understand anyone supporting them.

        2. Mercedes did nothing wrong and got cheated by race-control. They would have won the WDC if the rules were not broken. So why shouldnt they bring this to the courts?

    3. What we are seeing now is Mercedes stirring up a Twitterstorm that is aimed at getting Masi sacked, and that is graceless and undignified.

      @jonathan189 What are you referring to?

    4. Apologies, I pressed the ‘report’ button on your post by accident.

      The issue for me is not just this race but racing in F1. The race Direction and stewarding this season has been inadequate and this last incident just tops it off.

      We have to get away from prioritising ‘the show’ and prioritising fair and challenging racing with clear and equitably enforced rules and procedures. It is that which will provide an attractive show not gimmicks and misuse of the rules.

      1. I really don’t expect Masi to be RD next March. He’ll be quietly offered a new job elsewhere over winter!

    5. Marko has been quite scathing about the rules and interpretations since AD saying the FIA need to take action. And didn’t rule out personnel changes when asked. So you blaming that on Mercedes as well? BBC and others reporting that half the teams and drivers are pushing for change. All lead by Mercedes?
      Not seen anything directly or indirectly from Mercedes seeking Masi’s dismissal. I assume there is?

    6. Are you sure that the “twitterstorm” is due to Merc, and not just a bunch of F1 fans peeved that the race director decided, on the penultimate lap of the title-deciding final race of the season, to throw away the rule book and invent a new rule which handed a massive advantage to one, specific driver?

  13. The safety car restart allowed only 1 driver to race and it was Max and it was a one-way race as he didn’t have to check his rear view mirrors and/or worry about keeping his position from Sainz or Lewis backing him up into Sainz.

    Sainz and many other drivers and the lapped cars that were allowed by weren’t allowed to fight for position. Sainz could only defend.

    It was 1 lap for 1 car with illegal racing.

    1. Reality check: Sainz was not able to follow Ricciardo in front ( a unlapped car) and Bottas behind him was so slow that both AT’s passed him in that last lap.
      Max and lewis still had to fight on track and a real fight it was.

      1. Ricciardo was where he was (12th) because like Max, he’d pitted when the SC was deployed, expecting to race Leclerc and Vettel on the restart — except they were allowed to head off up the road, in contravention of the regulations.

        So Ric could pace Verstappen and Hamilton on his fresh tyres. Pretty obviously, Sainz (3rd) on old tyres couldn’t.

        1. I do not think you are a follower of F1 for some time.
          Ricciardo was lapped so to win this race he should have passed max and lewis and finished the extra lap and passed both again before they reached the finish line… nice thought but not realistic ;)

          1. Maybe you could afford to read the comment before answering. He said race Leclerc and Vettel.

    2. This is what I think a lot of the analysis ignores. Every driver should have an equal opportunity to race, regardless of their position (unless already/about to be lapped during green flag running). The unlapping of just cars between MV and LH essentially made it clear that nobody else matters – just the two fighting for the title.

      Whilst the title is the most important award in F1, each race is an independent entity and thus every driver should have an equal opportunity to win the race. Sainz/Tsunoda/Gasly/(Bottas) had that opportunity removed from them due to no fault of their own, with various strategies determined by teams’ engineers assuming the stated rules would be followed.

      At this stage I don’t believe the result should be overturned – as has been stated many times elsewhere, regardless of personal support, both drivers would have been worthy winners. However, the display of inconsitency from the FIA needs to be held to account, and it seems as though the only way to achieve this is through Mercedes protesting.

  14. 2012 Brazil GP finished under safety car, last race of the year Alonso lost to Vettel by 3 points.
    Actually the marshals did an amazing job to clear the track so quickly, thus enabling the current situation.
    It is obvious that Masi did not follow the accepted procedures as soon as the first lapped car passed Lewis on lap 57 according to the rules the race finishes under safety car.
    The only way for this race to finish under racing laps is to throw a red flag or do not allow any lapped cars to pass and you have 1 lap of racing. Allowing lapped cars to stay where they were is old school F1 and modern current practises is for them to unlap themselves, but in this instance there was not enough time for this to happen and finish the race under racing conditions.
    It is quite simple when you look at it, the rules are clear and looking at previous use of the safety car they all follow the same procedure.
    In this case it didn’t, the race director is in part a referee and did not follow the accepted practise or rules. As soon as he allowed any car to unlap themselves then it is a safety car finish. Unsatisfactory from a racing and viewing perspective absolutely, but correct under the rules running the race.

    1. TBH looking at the rulebook, he is only really allowed to do that if it is not safe to let the lapped runners through. I think he may have been able to wrangle an explanation of why he felt it wasn’t safe to do so, just as he could probably have found an explanation as to why he felt throwing a red flag earlier would have been down to safety, but by the letter of the regulations he had to let all lapped cars pass and then bring the SC in at the end of the following lap.

      Unless you accept the “Race Director can do whatever the heck he wants, screw you all” interpretation of 15.3 (which I don’t, personally), he actually has far less latitude than I ever realised. The regulations spell out what happens in most circumstances, and the few allowances and grey areas are on safety grounds.

      1. And this is how it should be.

        The safety car has potential to mess up a lot of drivers’ races (not referring to this race in particular). This is fine and part of the “joy” of motorsport, but in exchange it does need strictly defined rules. If nothing else this means the race director can escape accusations of bias etc by saying “my hands are tied and I followed the rules”.

        In this specific instance that meant that the track had to be clear and overtaking finished by the end of lap 56 for a restart to take place. A bit crappy that the WDC essentially hinges on when some volunteer marshals can finish their cleanup job and get back on post before some arbitrary time point but that’s what it is.

        On the other hand, if the race director doesn’t follow the rules and makes up his own he should rightly be thrown to the lions. If Mercedes does pursue the appeal I don’t see what option the court has except to either amend the race result or prove once again that it is populated exclusively by marsupials and somehow uphold the bizarre ruling of the stewards (my money is on option 2 but it is REALLY not a good look).

  15. If

    Masi later said the teams had previously agreed was “highly desirable”.


    Merc should have pitted HAM. Then they HAM have won.

    I accept there was no guarantee the race would restart, so it would have been a gamble, but they have made some poor strategy choices this year.

    1. Then HAM would have won.


    2. Even if Mercedes should have known that Masi was determined to end the race under green flag conditions “no matter what”, there were several ways he could’ve done it according to the rules in which Mercedes shouldn’t have pitted Hamilton:
      – Red flagging the race.
      – Not allowing lapped cars to unlap themselves.

    3. “Highly desirable” does not mean “Make sure it happens no matter how many rules we ignore”. The regulations must be followed, or it’s not racing.

  16. Does F1 and the FIA believe that this result will hold? They have some pretty bright guys like Stefano Domenicali, Ross Brawn, and Jean Todt at the helm there.

    It’s quite obvious that all kinds of Sporting Regulations, Codes, and rules were broken in the restart. There was 1 car racing at the direct request of the team principal whose words were “All we need [to win], is 1 lap” immediately after requesting that they clear the path between Max and Lewis. All the other drivers’s races were intentionally impaired or different than they would have been if the rules hadn’t been broken.

    Max was driving with 50% less pressure (not having to even look at his mirrors) as he was given a free one direction lap at a SC restart. That can only happen if you’re the last car on the grid. Max realized that he didn’t have to stay behind Lewis and got alongside him since he wasn’t racing anyone else.

    This is an untenable result.

    Clearly F1 would have fired Masi by now if it were just his fault. It’s a no-brainer given his performance this season. They blame it all on Masi, give him a good goodbye package, change the results, apologize, and everything’s undone.

    The fact that he’s not fired suggests that the error may not have come from Masi (perhaps the tremor in his voice as he was talking to Horner) and the directive may have come from someone else above him. If someone else is responsible for what’s transpired, then this is a much larger issue because it means the racing director hasn’t been in control of the races and F1 has had a racing dictatorship unbeknownst to the teams and fans.

    This will shake the foundation of this sport to such a degree that I’d be surprised if it didn’t result in a new series with new governance and if it’s called Formula 1 moving forward.

    I guess we shall find out over the next few weeks. I hope that we get clarity not for the rules but for what’s been happening in F1.

    I’m sure over the next few weeks we’ll find out what happened and I’m guessing careers will end a la Briatore and the sport will suffer.

    1. You just mentioned 3 Ferrari men that were part of Schumacher s record championships.

    2. Without reliable facts it still is kind of a conspiracy theory. But its plausible, and to me its perfectly clear that Liberty wanted a new champion.

      I also strongly believe that the race would not have been restarted, if HAM would have pitted. And I never would believe this restart would have happened, if the roles of HAM and VER would have been reversed.

      In my opinion its obvious, that this result was created on purpose.

      1. If Masi was trying to help VER win the championship why didn’t he penalise HAM for the turn 6 lap one incident.

        None of the many 1000s of posters on this site and others has been able to answer that.

    3. Now you mention it all becomes clear. There is a great dictatorship secretly running F1 and they put all their money on waiting (while they had chances on the first lap or even FP3) till the last five laps of the season, Nicholas Latifi to crash, just so they could frustrate Lewis Hamilton’s shot at a record 8th world title and then they still left it for Verstappen to sort it out in the last lap. Now I’m aware of this dictatorship I wonder what’s the value of Hamilton’s 7 world titles if it all has been decided beforehand anyway.

  17. Whatever Masi decided to do, there would be one team kicking up a storm at the decision. But what makes this particular outcome difficult to accept is the fact it was so unconventional and had never been done before, and massively benefitted one driver over the other, and completely discounted all other drivers (and protected Max from any challenge behind).

    If it was all about finishing under the green flag, he could have immediately red flagged, both drivers would have then been on an equal footing and F1 gets its thrilling (albeit probably messy) climax. Mercedes wouldn’t have been happy had Lewis lost, but Masi could point to previous examples of this being protocol.

    Another option was following the usual safety car procedure (as i’m sure would have happened if this had been any other race if the red flag option wasn’t chosen). Lewis wins under the safety car, Red Bull aren’t happy, but Masi can point to previous examples of this being protocol.

    Third option (and somewhat unusual) is not allowing any lapped cars through. When Max was told this was going to happen initially on the radio he almost accepted it somewhat. Red Bull could have had a good moan at this option, but Masi could point out that the only other choice was as above – safety car coming in on the last lap and having no opportunity for Max to have a go at Lewis.

    Had any of the three options above been taken, Masi would have had more support and examples to fall back on – with what he did he’s completely out on a limb.

    1. Agreed, good summary.
      Masi as part of his duties is the referee in this case. He is following procedures as Matt outlined above within the established rules and previous situations.
      This is like a football referee deciding a handball outside the box is now a penalty. Not a great example, but I am trying to show this is not a subjective decision this is him following a procedure that he has changed.

    2. The race director can’t red flag the race because he – and F1 as a collective – want races to finish under green flag conditions. Red flags are a worst case scenario, where the track cannot be navigated safely even under safety car conditions. This is reserved for extreme weather conditions, severely damaged safety facilities like broken barriers, immediate medical assistance to an injured driver, or debris that requires lengthy removal with (multiple) heavy support vehicles. None of that was the case in Abu Dhabi.

      1. Red flag was an option in my opinon, cause of the place of the accident and the chance of debris. But it would have had a bad smell, as everybody would know the real reasons behind. Nobody would have been able to bring up hard facts against it.

    3. Redbull had been kicking up a storm all season. They believed they were entitled to this year’s championship.
      They have been very nasty in character assassination. In their minds they are the only good people. A

  18. The stewards’ account of Masi’s evidence in the hearing on Mercedes’ protest said he decided “to remove those lapped cars that would ‘interfere’ in the racing between the leaders.”

    The simple fact is that Masi was the one who interfered in the racing and the race (and championship) result by engineering a restart that broke various safety protocols, focused solely on two drivers to the exclusion of all the others still remaining, and – as he was undoubtedly aware – meant an easy victory for one driver at the expense of the other who had been leading the race.
    As Michelle Foster pointed out, Masi’s unprofessional and tendentious actions were an example, in his own words prior to the race, of “behaviour in an unsportsmanlike manner or attempt to influence the result of a competition in a way that is contrary to sporting ethics.”
    Mercedes should take this to court. I feel for Max and Lewis, neither of whom deserved this situation. But it is bigger than them or their two teams. There is a deep lack of integrity in Masi and FIA’s actions.

    1. @david-br +1

      Do you believe Masi would do that on his own though?

      1. @freelittlebirds I don’t think it’s for anyone else to know or decide at this point. He may be a conduit for various pressures, beyond the ones we already know, the two teams, but he was the one who invoked his alleged authority to decide on procedures over and above the written regulations, so at this point the focus has to be on him.

        1. @david-br excellent point, ultimately it is his responsibility unless he was coerced into the decisions by his bosses.

        2. Hatchet men line the pages of history. Willful instruments of higher placed manipulators.

  19. Don’t forget that the stewards decision against the appeal is simply based on art 48.13 (once the message
    “Safety Car in this lap” has been displayed, it is mandatory to withdraw the safety car at the end
    of that lap”) ”overriding” 48.12 (“once the last lapped car has passed the leader
    the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap).

    Simply, Masi is required to wait to the following lap to send the message “safety car in this lap”. He didn’t, he messed up the race at that point, so the only remedy is to classify the race before that point.

    There is, however, art 15.3 giving the RD “overriding authority” over “the use of the safety
    car”, which the stewards used to argue that Masi can do what he likes. The spirit of that is surely in the interests of safety, not, to give the RD the ability to ignore regulations at whim.

    Notably, the stewards didn’t address the “any means all” argument at all in their decision. I rather think they didn’t an answer so just ignored it!

    1. Apologies for the formatting, I was copy and pasting from the FIA pdf!

    2. ‘Any’ is used in a conditional sense: if there are any drivers who have been lapped, then all of these drivers must blah, blah, blah. Trying to claim that it allows the race director to pick and choose who gets to unlap is simply mendacious and wouldn’t stand two seconds in any actual legal discussion.

      1. That’s right. If that’s the way they want to interpret ‘any’, Masi can if he wishes release the 2nd, 4th, and 6th car in a lapped train, and instruct the 1st, 3rd and 5th to remain where they are.

      2. it would not stand in “any” legal discussion… nice example

    3. @dang As for the rest, yes, any ‘overriding authority’ is clearly intended for the purposes of safety, not for engineering an exciting ending at the cost of safety. I actually think that further compromises the position of Masi and FIA as it reveals an arbitrary wish to ignore the purpose of the regulations.

    4. Rgd. 15.3 you simply cannot put a sentence in a paragraph out of it’s context. Its nonsense to derive that Masi is thereby empowered to use the Safety Car however he likes. He can decide against the opionion of other officials, but not against the rules.

    5. I actually had to go back and take a look at 15.3 because I think there’s a terrible misinterpretation going on. @romtrain seems to have picked up on it as well.

      15.3 The clerk of the course shall work in permanent consultation with the Race Director. The Race
      Director shall have overriding authority in the following matters and the clerk of the course may
      give orders in respect of them only with his express agreement
      a) The control of practice, sprint qualifying session and the race, adherence to the timetable
      and, if he deems it necessary, the making of any proposal to the stewards to modify the
      timetable in accordance with the Code or Sporting Regulations.
      b) The stopping of any car in accordance with the Code or Sporting Regulations.
      c) The stopping of practice, suspension of a sprint qualifying session or suspension of the
      race in accordance with the Sporting Regulations if he deems it unsafe to continue and
      ensuring that the correct restart procedure is carried out.
      d) The starting procedure.
      e) The use of the safety car.

      The way this reads is that the Race Director works hand in hand with a Clerk for the circuit. The Clerk is able to give orders on items a-e on the agreement of the Race Director. IF there is a disagreement between the two individuals, the Race Director’s word overrides that of the Clerk. None of this seems to mean that the Race Director may override the word of the Sporting Regulations at their discretion.

      Shot in the dark, but @keithcollantine do you care to comment on this thought?

        1. Maybe with all his authority the RD can also use the Safety Car for getting him to the airport, get him some donuts and bring his kids to school… And just to have some fun do a reverse grid start, cause starting procedure is also all up to him.

      1. Is there potentially a case for a police or FBI investigation for fraud against the FIA? I mean it is clear rules were not applied and that could have been in error which is ok an honest mistake in the heat of the moment and this can happen. FIA could have argued that it is too late and simply apologised to Mercedes Ferrari and the rest. But by dishonestly trying to make the rules up and confirm the result this becomes a conspiracy to defraud. It is clear rules where breached. For those who doubted this the evidence is even clearer now. As we have seen in the past, sometimes large companies get done not for the initial error but for the cover up. This FIA hearing was a cover up.

  20. The option of a red flag was always there until the obstruction was cleared and the track cleaned. In truth a red flag would have been very sensible immediately the accident happened as the track was strewn with carbon fibre in a tight corner.

    But any decision took the usual lengthy delay from race control. We have seen it again and again. We see the need, they have the same screens so why so often does it take so long for them to act whether VSC or Safety Car or red flag.

    One look at the lap counter and a look at the screen and a red flag should have been thrown, ensuring racing would continue with 3 laps to go. Surely Masi did a little bit of scenario planning for just such a contingency as part of his race planning. No?

    Whatever, and independent of who wins the race, Masi Isn’t good enough for such a fast moving, highly competitive and financially extravagant sport (if it still is a sport and not a circus show).

    And the stewards must stop automatically rejecting any challenge. Being receptive and accepting the right of challenge would generate more confidence in the FIA’s team at the track.

    We are seeing just how invaluable Charlie Whiting really was keeping the playing field even and the rules understood and enforced equitably.

    1. “We are seeing just how invaluable Charlie Whiting really was keeping the playing field even and the rules understood and enforced equitably.”

      The highly controversial rulling went out of control in the days of the Hamilton and Rosberg rivalry (benefitting Hamilton mainly). Only in those days, everyone was of the view that it was a Mercedes “internal affair”, “first lap incident” etc.

      Well, until it wasn’t anymore. Guess who was the race director then.

      1. @cobray

        Yeah, I’ve been thinking the same thing. Masi is incompetent and Sundays mess was his fault. But the “let them race” attitude started before his tenure.

        Of course he didn’t seem to help either.

  21. A race event is 305km according to the sport regs. the result of a 305km event determines positions and points allocation.

    If a race is shorter than 305km points can be allocated – this is covered in 6.5. HOWEVER, this clauses requires a suspension of the race to come into effect.

    So you can nullify lap 58 if you want, which is what Merc’s appeal stated they wanted. Problem is if the event is then less than 305km it means the race isn’t finished. As the race wasn’t suspended and thus 6.5 can’t come into play, what we have is a situation where not enough kilometres were covered to declare a result that is in line within he sporting code.

    i.e Merc have no way of overturning the result without the ICA employing an egregious level of power over the results system which they won’t and can’t really do.

    52.2 covers early chequered flags for anyone wanting to jump in with “what about Japan 2019?”

    1. That would be even worse… if they can’t allocate points for the final race but can allocate points for Spa, they should just move forward with a new series today so we can start in March.

      F1 is in breach of contract.

      Teams can get rid of F1 and FIA, honor all other business contracts, done.

    2. I think you are wrong. last year the last lap of a race was nullified because the chequered flag was displayed to some people’s dashes or something like that. don’t remember which race it was. but basically they did one lap less and everything was fine

      1. I actually believe multiple races were waved off early by mistake, and one of them (Chinese GP – do not remember the year) by something like 3 laps too early. Will try to look for this one now.

      2. Here it is, race 2-lap shorter. Officially, GP had only 54 laps instead of usual 56.

        One quote from the article:
        “The error means Jules Bianchi is classified 17th despite having been overtaken by Kamui Kobayashi at the end of the race.” (sorry for bringing Jules Bianchi into this :(( )

        Though it must be mentioned that was done in accordance to rules designed specifically to chequered-flag situations.

  22. Thanks for this thorough analysis, good job.

  23. Red Bull chose to pit which put the back markers between Max and Hamilton. That was the cost to the decision. Then Horner tells Masi to remove those cars and that he needs 1 lap. Masi doesn’t remove the cars between Max and Sainz. Clearly unfair to the field of racers.

    Also why did they pit Perez who could have been in podium? Did they accidentally put a set of Perez’s soft tires on Max’s car and didn’t want to risk someone seeing that the markings on both cars tires as being the same?

    1. @jimfromus people have said RB underfueled perez car so he could be more effective in blocking Lewis with a lighter faster car, he did not have enough fuel to reach the end hence the DNF. There might be extra shady tricks going on with the car too so DNF before the race is over is a good way to avoid scrutineering .

  24. Also RIC got screwed. He pits for fresh tires as he expects to unlap and race to the finish. He sees the drivers ahead unlap but is told by his engineer that he can’t unlap. I would love to hear more from him.

  25. These 4 minutes killed the sport and created a “farcial comedy sport-like race”.

  26. One thing that no-one seems to be addressing, is the unfair rule that tends to favour the second driver in these safety car situations. Had the accident occurred one lap earlier then would have been little controversy (within the rules), simply the ‘normal’ situation that a driver leading the whole race loses it for a minor incident outside their control (and the championship in this case) as the race could have re-started following normal procedure with the same result – Max winning.
    I’ve heard many commentators saying ‘luck evens out over a season’ (it doesn’t necessarily) but baked into the rules of our sport is a situation where the rules dictate an advantage for a following driver. Can anyone think of another sport where a competitor or team is way out in front, and via the rules of the sport is impeded?
    I think the whole safety car rules need re-thinking. Why move back markers out of the way? Of course for the show, but at the expense of fairness. There is already an advantage as any gap is reduced, but in addition we’ll move out of the way all of the back markers the lead driver has passed.
    Perhaps also preventing changing tyres under the safety car, at least in the last 10 laps. And perhaps a reduced pit speed limit for changing tyres under the safety car to reduce the benefit (and likelihood) of pitting under the safety car.

    For clarity none of the above comments are Lewis/Max related, its as likely to impact your favourite driver in the next occasion this occurs.

    1. Why move back markers out of the way?

      I would say (but maybe I’m overlooking something) this is tied to blue flag rules? I can see why, if the pack is bunched up and the backmarkers aren’t suppose to interfere with the race leaders you might as well get them out of the way immediately. If you get rid of blue flags all together passing the back markers is actually an achievement the driver ahead should be rewarded for.
      Also: by bunching up everyone the back markers might also suddenly find themselves in a situation where they can fight for position (with other back markers), which would make it harder (and with that unfair) for the second driver in the race to pass the same back markers just because of the SC-interference.

      1. So to protect the 2nd driver we place the selected back markers in front of the first driver so it becomes fair.

    2. Hamilton was way before the pit entry when SC was declared. he could have stopped. Same thing with the VSC before this. Mercedes are not good at unexpected pit stops, contrary to RB….

      1. they made the right decision, but got cheated by race control braking the rules. i agree their decisions are not always the best, also more often than decisions of RB. but this was not their fault.

  27. What I have heard is that Masi can take his decisions only after the track is given free (safety) and after contacting the stewards (rules) Is that the case F1 will refer to the earlier agreement between the teams that whenever possible races should be fought on the track and not at a legal desk. This does also apply when you loose a race.

    1. @pietkoster well, whenever possible is not always. Sometimes it may be impossible.

      Incidentally, I think Masi had three valid (fair) options from the viewpoint of sporting fairness while ending the race with some kind of ‘show’. Restart the race without the lapped cars unlapping themselves, which would have been much harder for Max but would have corresponded much better to the situation previous to the SC (effectively cancelling out his unearned advantage from the SC and indeed the VSC). Or red flag the race and do a ‘reset’ for the race, allowing all drivers to change sets. Or three, allow the proper procedures to unfold, which would have meant ending the race under the safety car.

      1. Option four: let the cars between Ham and Max pass. Put Ham in front of Max and let them fight it out on track like it should. Just a mistake from Mercedes not to go to softs.

      2. David, Lewis should have won this and the WDC. He just run out of luck. After 21 races the went head to head as in the last race and last lap.

  28. I think that, now the dust has settled, the conclusion is pretty clear: under immense pressure the race director took a half-hearted decision, partly based on sporting regulations (but not fully implementing those) and partly based on another agreement that had been made earlier (i.e. the desire to finish under a green flag). Since this decision was solely focussed on the championship battle it left all other competitors out of contention for the win and it left Mercedes guessing for how the race would end, which made it harder for them to make an educated guess on how to respond (though they were always going to be on the back foot in an SC-situation, since they couldn’t respond to what’s happening behind them).

    Rather than focus on ‘what should have happened’ I’m interested in how we can avoid this/strengthen the referee’s role in F1 for future occasions. I’m not sure whether getting rid of Masi would solve the problem. F1 needs to clear up its rule book, more consistant stewarding, less (or no) contact between team bosses and the race director (or less broadcasting) and I’d say more tools to make snap decisions in high pressure moments like the perfect storm that passed by on sunday and wasn’t adequately dealt with.

    1. Agreed, there is a lot to clarify for FIA and more important to solve before the next season starts.
      Consistent stewarding.
      Clear rules what is allowed under the “let them race” option. Where are the limits and how to protect them.

      Some additional points to take on.
      SC situations and unlapping.. regardless what happened in AD why unlapping cars. Why not give the leaders the option to take the original position. The one lap fuel problem can be solved on other ways.
      RF, no more repairing and tires changes changing except when proven a safety concern and with a penalty on track position.

      1. Your intepretation and Horner’s of “let them race” is akin to Death Race 2000. I’m pretty sure it’s the exact opposite of what the other 19 drivers want.

        I’m including Mazepin because surely he doesn’t want drivers T-boning him every time he gets next to them. Who got T-boned again? Is he alive? Nah, we lost Fernando, he got T-boned by Mick as he was going into the pit stops…

    2. I haven’t thought Masi is up to the job for over a year. His explanations are either contradictory, or as we heard when reply to Merc in Brazil, a nonsensical word salad.
      I don’t see the need particularly to shut off RD/Team communication given the safety aspect; but it has to be said that the messages we hear from them now are not for the recipient, they are for us the audience. They are 90% PR. Messages between teams and RD should remain private. That would take a lot of pressure away from RD.
      Where it does fall down is as you say in your last para. F1 needs a management structure that the RD can work under, backed up by enough staff and resources to make those quick decisions within clearly defined rules. As Peter Windsor alluded to the teams have computers and strategists churning out thousands of what if scenarios in real time. Surely a simplified version with a dedicated team alongside the RD would have flagged up the correct route to follow within the rules.
      In normal times I would have suspected the FIA to already announce a review of all the RD/Steward issues this season that would head off any protest. But the problem is now that no one is home at the FIA until the new guy gets elected. If you read the latest from RB through Marko and Horner; putting aside the race result, they want the same as Mercedes.

      1. His explanations are either contradictory, or as we heard when reply to Merc in Brazil, a nonsensical word salad.

        Absolutely true, though what further confuses me: the RD isn’t the one handing out the penalties, that’s up to the stewards of the meeting. Why is Masi the one trying to defend them in public?

      2. don’t see the need particularly to shut off RD/Team communication given the safety aspect;

        Not sure if that is the meaning of Todt. The communication between the team will stay but not with the teamleaders.
        After the silverstone incident there was already a gentlemans agreement that teamleaders do not visit the RD
        The disgraceful behavior by Toto triggert this shut off plan.

  29. Here’s my take: Everything was in the limits of the rules except the partial unlapping.

    48.12 offers two possibilities: a) Unlap all cars and call the safety in at the end of the following lap (or later). b) Unlap none of the cars and call the safety car in. Option a) is chosen when “it is safe to do so”. However, the existence of possibility b) implies that safety is not the only criterion: It’s always safe to overtake if you’re going green next lap, so you could always wait and you would not need option b) at all. So b) exists for cases when we can’t go green next lap. The obvious example is that there are no laps left in the race.

    So here’s some area of discretion beyond looking at safety. How to use that discretion? The spirit of 48.12 is to ensure racing between the leaders. Given the number of remaining laps, it made sense to announce “NO OVERTAKING” because this was the best *available* option to ensure racing. Now this decision has been changed, and this is where it gets fuzzy. Sure, track conditions can change and overtaking can become safe or unsafe. So I think in general it’s possible to change the decision. But in this case, it didn’t make sense: The safest *and* at the same time the best available option (for the purpose of racing) had already been chosen. No reason to change your mind… I think this was a mistake.

    48.13 doesn’t really matter for this assessment. Sure, after you announce “SC IN THIS LAP”, you should stick to it (unless the track becomes unsafe again). But the mistake had already happened. Claiming that 48.13 overrides 48.12 is strange. Yes, the wording contradicts each other: “the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap” vs “When the clerk of the course decides it is safe to call in the safety car “SAFETY CAR IN THIS LAP” will be sent”. But the way to resolve this contradiction is the understand the mentioned part of 48.12 specializes 48.13. In other words, 48.12 is more specific to this situation. And specific rules override general rules. (And this interpretation had been used consistently in the past.)

    15.3 doesn’t change a lot. Its purpose is to assign responsibilities and duties. We can’t have a debate when we need a SC, that’s why we assign the decision making to the Race Director. But of course, his job is to apply the rules. 15.3 doesn’t give him the ultimate authority do to break the rules, it just assign him the authority for making a decision. However, a decision can be wrong. It’s not magically right just because he’s the Race Director and 15.3 says so.

    Having said all of this, I fully agree with This job is damn hard, and Masi deserves respect for fulfilling it. I can imagine he didn’t sleep well that night. I don’t think he’s the wrong person for this job.

    I think we can all agree that his job would be easier if there was less wiggle room in the rules. His discretion should be restricted to matters of safety. E.g., 48.12 should mandate the procedure, not leave two options. This will make the sport more predictable for everyone. (That’s why I also don’t like that many people bring up the idea of a red flag… It was safe to continue under SC, so we don’t need red flags. The decisions should depend on safety, not on the show.) Of course, the Regs can’t foresee every single case, and sometimes thing happen for which there’s no rule. Then we need the authority of the Race Director. But that’s really rare and Abu Dhabi was not such a case.

    One last thing: I don’t think the Stewards (or the ICA) will be in a position to amend the Classification. 1.9.3.h gives the Stewards the authority to amend the Classification but the way I interpret it is that it applies to penalties, disqualifications, etc. I agree with the Stewards that amending the classification is “effectively shortening the race retrospectively, and hence not appropriate.” The Race Director has made a decision. Whether the decision is wrong or not, it has been made and we cannot correct it retrospectively.

  30. It is quite clear to me, and I think to anyone thinking sportingly and without any allegiance to team or driver, that the correct thing to do was to allow the last laps to just tick past under caution. Could have refused to let the lapped cars pass and restart – but I think that almost as undesirable from a TV point of view as no restart, personally.

    Before the crash there was no chance of a battle for the lead, so why fabricate one in such an unsportsmanlike manner?

    Unfair, unsporting, unprecedented and completely unacceptable for the governing body to interfere in the result in such an obvious way.

    1. in such an unsportsmanlike manner?

      There is nothing “unsportsmanlike” by using a SC.
      In all races with a late SC there is always a driver that benefits more. If your lucky or dared to take risks there could be a free or short pitstop with all its advantage.
      That is always the case. I understand this netflix season there are a lot of new f1 visitors who do not know the sport and get off on their fanship. But that is how it was and is.

  31. Why doesn’t the analysis take into account the discussion between Masi and Horner where he requested (perhaps demanded) that the lapped cars were allowed to go by along with the final statement from Horner to Masi “All we need [to win] is 1 lap”.

    Immediately after that request/demand, Masi changed his mind allowing cars to be unlapped and allowing only the cars between Verstappen and Hamilton.

    Not sure the analysis is complete without this piece and perhaps may be as biased as Masi’s decision.

    1. You probably disagree, but you’re filling in quite some blank spaces with your own interpretation there, before jumping to a conclusion that suits you.
      Horner asks Masi “Why aren’t we getting these lapped cars out of the way?”,
      to which Masi responds “because, Christian, give me a second, ok? My main big one is to get this, eh, incident clear…”
      after which Horner adds “You only need one racing lap”.

      This might be seen as A) Masi is under immense pressure and focussed on getting the track safe, while Horner is doing as much lobbying as Wolff did earlier, referring to the agreement that they aim to finish under a green flag or, if you really want to see it that way, B) Masi is working for Red Bull and Horner is threatening to fire him if he doesn’t let the lapped cars through.

      Left way or right way around it’s no reason to question the legitimacy of this entire article. After all Toto Wolff’s radio calls to Masi weren’t the prettiest and aren’t mentioned here either.

      1. Ruben,

        I didn’t jump to a conclusion and Masi’s about-face came immediately in the aftermath of talking to Horner. That is important because if someone related asks you to rob a place that will benefit you, and you proceed immediately to rob said place, the other person is complicit. Without a doubt, you’d view any analysis that omitted such clear evidence as biased.

        Also, I’m not sure what Wolff said other than what I heard. It’s clear throughout the race that Wolff and Mercedes are afraid of foul play. I think all of us were afraid of that.

        In fact, when the safety car came out, I think we all knew the outcome and what Masi would do. I knew it was over. The whole world knew what would transpire. Did you feel otherwise?

        1. that will benefit them… sorry, correction

        2. At least Horner asked it in a decent way with respect. While Toto went Bezirk and very disrespectful. Good to see/hear how Masi rebuked him.
          A disgrace for the sport and for team mercedes. Of course he is allowed to have emotions. But keep it respectful.

  32. What would it have cost to allow all lapped cars past and still start the race before completion of a lap.

    Masi decided that there were only 2 important cars on a track.
    He denied Mercedes the use of a Bottas in Attacking Max and possibly taken 2nd from him likewise Sainz and effectively ended the race for a lot of other drivers prematurely.

    It was not his job to try and do what h a thought was right. His job was to follow the rules and make it equal for all.

    1. Reality check… Bottas was not able to keep his car on track and was passed by the both AT’s in that last lap.
      Sainz was unable to follow the way quicker Ricciardo and stroll went aside without any delay.
      Nobody got any profit or gain or lost time.

  33. Red flag, standing restart (we love starts, they’re the exciting bit, give us more starts) and a one-lap shootout (with fireworks going off in the background) would’ve been best for The Show. Both cars on new tyres, and a bit of a delay to get it nearer primetime in the States.

    Channel 4, don’t bother with any more deals for live races. Today’s F1 and Sky deserve each other.

  34. I think what happened is purely a result of putting the show above the sport.

    In the past I think they would have just let the race end behind the SC, Especially if Charlie Whiting was still race director as I think he’d have seen it as the fairest thing to do from a sporting perspective. By deciding to restart the race be it by ending the SC as they did or going for a red flag/standing restart there was a far greater likelihood they were going to affect the outcome of the race/championship in a way that could be viewed as unfair & the only reason to do that at that point was ‘for the show’.

    I said on Sunday & I still feel now that I should have been thrilled having seen a great finish & crowning of a new & very deserving world champion yet the way things ended were unsatisfying & left me feeling deflated more than anything else & for as unfair as I know it is that for me has tainted Max’s win just a tiny a bit.

    However if Mercedes opt to appeal & if they somehow had things changed in some way which gave Lewis to championship that would feel equally unsatisfying so at this point I don’t think there’s anything they can do to ‘fix’ anything in a way that will satisfy anyone.

    1. Regardless of who ends up ‘crowned’ champion now it will be unsatisfying and not what anyone wanted.

    2. @stefmeister I agree with all that. But I’m unhappy about Masi and FIA being left to do the same again next season. Why watch 20+ races in a championship if the rules are going to be reinvented at a whim in the final minutes of the final race? That for me was the most insulting aspect. I invest money and time in this sport as a spectator. The minimum to expect in return is a genuine sport based on the ethics of equal competition. I want the drivers to decide the championship through their racing and it was obvious to everyone who watched that Hamilton earned that win in Abu Dhabi and had it taken away in the last minutes through the deliberate interference and contrivance of the race director against FIA’s existing rules. Simply unbelievable.

  35. 1. It’s been a great season
    2. I’m a Lewis fan but can’t deny Max is a great racer
    3. I don’t ever want to see a full safety car again. Get rid of them. Lets have VSC or red flag only. Make it easy for the teams and race director. If the cars can pass safely with workers on the track then VSC. If they can’t or weather is bad then red flag.
    4. Red flag rules to change. Tire changes while permitted don’t count as a required stop.

    1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      14th December 2021, 17:45

      Regarding point 4 – under red flag it should not be allowed to change tires or repair car, period. If tires are changed or repairs made the car has to go back x places on the grid.

      That way no need for full safety car, just red flag the race. That way no laps are wasted behind SC – there is no unfair gain by any driver changing tires/repairing as places are being lost.

      1. Then we go back to aggregate times. Drivers used to retain their lead times after a red flag until fairly recently.

  36. “Once marshals were allowed onto the scene their first job was to clear the debris surrounding the car so others could get through. This ultimately prevented the need for a red flag, and took away one of the options the race director had.”

    Serious question. Myself and many others have suggested he should have thrown the red flag as soon as there was a crash this near the end of the race. My thought was the red flag would have given the maximum flexibility to clean the crash safely and without haste. It also would have created an impartial, consistent, and thilling end to the season.

    To me the crash seems serious enough that a red flag would have been justifiable. It seems the timeline given here confirms the marshalls were struggling to deal with it and seemed rushed.

    So my serious question: was there anything in the rules or in precedent that constrained him from using the red flag?

    1. 41.1 If Competitors or officials are placed in immediate physical danger by cars running on the track, and the clerk of the course deems circumstances are such that the track cannot be negotiated safely, even behind the safety car, the race will be suspended.

      Strictly, a red flag is only allowed if the conditions are too dangerous for the safety car. That said, there is some wiggle room there, as it is very subjective and I think most serious incidents would probably allow him to argue that bit wasn’t safe enough.

      That said, there is actually much less wiggle room in the regs than I thought. We’ve been letting him get away with a lot more than the rules strictly allow for a long time now. Never anything as blatant as making up a brand new rule which gives a clear advantage to one competitor in the final, title-deciding race of the season, but still…

      1. But the race director is allowed to do anything as demonstrated by his not following the restart rules.

        1. @jimfromus
          I’m trying to ignore that interpretation of that clause, which I am now referring to as the “F you” rule. If that interpretation is confirmed as valid, then F1 is definitely no longer a sport, and I don’t want to think about that outcome.

          1. Lol and let’s not forget the race that never had a green flag. The director can do anything.

  37. Whatever way you cut this was a 4 minute mugging, F1 is no longer a sport and now firmly planted as an entertainment show, Netflix got the ending it dreamed of while non RB F1 fans sat there wondering have we just seen a massive championship fixing hatchet job on Lewis. I for one have decided I wont be watching the races next year instead focusing on WEC, BTCC and Moto GP, fake reality TV sport is not my thing.

  38. If there is a ruling in favor of Mercedes it will be because of Ricciardo’s treatment. He had a chance to finish in the points but was not allowed to unlap when his competitors were. The decision was not equitable for all racers that could score points.

    1. 100% correct. This isn’t just about Max or Lewis, it’s about the integrity of F1 as a sport.
      One man cannot just manipulate the rules on the fly whenever he feels it would make good viewing or benefit only only driver..

      Also, let’s not lose sight of how Masi also totally disregarded Carlos Sainz chance of possibly winning his first ever GP by not unlapping the cars that separated Him and Max. Who knows? Maybe pressure from Sainz would have pushed Verstappen into a mistake or slowed max up enouth to made his overtake more difficult on Lewis.
      One thing we do know is that this decision was manipulated with one driver in mind and showed nothing but disdain to the other drivers NOT just Lewis.
      ONLY moving lapped cars out of way of max on fresh soft last minute placing him directly behind Lewis who was on ancient hards was clear race manipulation.

  39. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    14th December 2021, 17:40

    Mercedes failed to cover their base during the earlier VSC – a massive strategic blunder that created a big risk.

    Lewis was well ahead so could have pitted under VSC, if Max also pitted than no loss only gain of fresh tires. If Max wouldn’t pit Lewis would be on fresher tires in a faster Mercedes with still plenty of laps to go to catch and overtake Max.

    Yes Lewis deserved to win the race however deserving it doesn’t always mean you get it. I seriously doubt there would be this much outrage on this website if the situation was reverse. Nor would their be some many articles/headlines implying foul play and that Max didn’t win the WDC fairly.

    Over the whole season the most deserving driver won the championship, he won it by a fair legal pass on the track.
    Regardless of what Masi did (the rules give him that authority) there is no way, even if the FIA/CAS determines Masi acted incorrectly, that the WDC is taken away from Max.

    1. They might rule that he must race with 1* as his number.

    2. @jelle-van-der-meer completely untrue, why do people keep posting this false narrative?
      I don’t understand why people say merc made wrong calls,i am the first to call out mercs strategy own goals but every call was spot on

      Merc did not pit because the pace on the hards was good and deg was very low with fuel burnoff and it was not worth the risk of losing track position with max’s ability to race like its destruction derby.

      Also NOT pitting when the sc came out was a great move by merc because if they boxed lewis rb would just invert keeping max out to get track position on lewis and i have no doubt that masi would finish under yellows..

      merc was screwed either way. It was a checkmate situation as merc make calls based off standard FIA protocol and established set of constant application of the rules which masi changed last minute for his WWE finish to the race.
      if merc stays out masi invents new rules to shift traffic ONLY out of max’s way so he has a clear run on lewis, if they boxed they run the risk of finishing under yellows when you take into account the time it takes to clear the hazard and all cars unlap themselves.

      So if anything staying out was the smartest call to make because at least they have grounds for appeal with the botched farcical restart , if merc boxed Lewis and the race finished under sc declaring max winner Merc would have zero recourse.

      1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
        14th December 2021, 18:47

        Just because you disagree or don’t like it doesn’t make my opinion false – multiple F1 experts have said Mercedes made the wrong strategic call with the VSC.
        Even Lewis questioned the call not to pit during the SC.

        But please Mercedes don’t learn from your mistake, keep making them, I will keep enjoying them.

        1. disagree. They made the right decision, to win the race. Its just that rules were broken and they got cheated. Easy as that, but obviously to difficult for biased fans to comprehend.

          1. They made the right decision, to win the race.

            if so something terribly went wrong ;)
            Apart form the fia decisions it was logical for mercedes to choose this strategy but in hindsight it really was the wrong one.

  40. R.I.P. Formula 1
    “The Sport that Died trying to be a Show”

  41. Can’t understand why a race couldn’t finish under SC..if there is a crash in the final laps why we have to put red flag like Baku and change again everything? Bahrain 2019 finished under SC and the reason for insert an SC there were really poor, Leclerc with an engine problem was saved and prized with his first podium..

    1. Of course i can. I happened before. But its a race, not a prosession. So as always you try to end a race in a green condition.
      If it is safe to do you restart the race as soon as possible. That is what happened here.
      Yes, the FIa/Masi used rules not often used before but they did it with the sole purpose to restart as soon as possible,
      It was de (logical) mercedes decision not to pit that decided the outcome. Nevertheless max still had to put up a mega fight with the current WDC but won.
      Fair on track.
      The Fia really has some issues, but they did not decided the outcome but created a battlefield.
      look for a nice analysis :

  42. In a sense Mercedes was lucky at first strategy-wise that clearing Latifi’s car was delayed so much, that is until Red Bull got lucky at the end that Masi prioritized letting the race leaders finish under green flag conditions without interference.

  43. The podium is for 3 drivers so why not clear for no 3.

  44. Masi’s decision gave an advantage to 1 and only 1 driver. It violates the sporting fairness clause. The unlapped drivers were not allowed to actually unlap as the safety car was removed before they caught up to the lead lap. Obviously the unlapped cars and the cars with unlapped cars were not provided the same advantage as Max was given. Some cars pitted and others didn’t. They all had strategies. 1 car was able to pit and switch their position before the restart. No other car was provided that.

  45. Mercedes obviously needed Flavio giving them advice.

    As soon as the safety car in this lap sign was shown, Bottas should’ve speared off the track into a wall so the race was nullified and safety car had to continue. (Just kidding)

  46. How convenient for a Williams to smack itself against a wall with only a few laps remaining. Then it takes said Williams driver a decade to actually turn the car off and get out. He was not in too much of a hurry now was he? I wonder why? I wonder if there was any foul play right there. It’s good to have an open mind. Who said Masi changed his mind Ida? I don’t see a quote from Masi stating that he changed his mind. Is that the case? News to me. I though his intentions were to clear the track and then go racing be it with all lapped cars unlapped or not. Lapped cars were not allowed to over take the safety car at that time as Marshall’s were on track. Then it was clear just in time to get the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen out of the way. Job done. Perfect from Masi.

  47. The only mistake was not allowing cars lapped cars to go as soon as possible, only 5 cars were allowed to go as a consequence of that first poor decision, it doesn’t change the final result.

    About the SC not doing an extra lap is understandable and there is a precedent, Brazil 2019, lapped cars were allowed to go in the same lap the SC ended.

  48. Imola, Silverstone, Hungary, Baku also all had a role in changing the destiny of the championship, to think otherwise is being quite naive.

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