Safety Car, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, 2021

No decision yet over outcome of Abu Dhabi restart investigation – FIA

2021 F1 season

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The FIA have confirmed their internal investigation into the final laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is still ongoing.

New FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, has entrusted the governing body’s secretary general for sport, Peter Bayer, to conduct a formal investigation into the controversial end of the championship-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The season finale provoked controversy after Max Verstappen passed Lewis Hamilton on the last lap, winning the race and the championship, after F1 an unusual application of Safety Car restart rules by race director Michael Masi.

Just over two weeks since confirming that the inquiry into the finish of the race had begun, the FIA has released a new statement confirming that their investigation remains ongoing, and teams will not be briefed on its findings for another two weeks.

“At this stage, no decision has been taken on the outcome of the detailed analysis currently underway into the events of the last Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix,” the statement read.

“As previously announced, the findings of this detailed analysis will be presented at the Fl Commission meeting in London on 14th February after an open discussion with all F1 drivers and then finally have to be approved at the World Motor Sport Council meeting on 18th March in Bahrain, under the authority of FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem.”

The FIA’s announcement follows reports of an interview Bayer conducted with Austrian newspaper Vorarlberger Nahrichten in which he indicated there was a “possibility” that Masi would be replaced as the race director for Formula 1 grands prix.

“Michael did a super job in many ways,” Bayer said. “We definitely don’t want to lose him. We told him that, but also that there is a possibility that there could be a new race director. I can only make suggestions to the World Council and they will definitely include Michael.”

The outcome of the FIA’s investigation into the race which decided last year’s world championship has attracted significant attention. Reports elsewhere claimed Masi’s future could be decided as early as next week.

However the FIA’s newest statement reaffirmed that the findings from their investigation will be presented to the body’s F1 commission – a representative group of stakeholders connected to Formula 1, including teams – at a meeting scheduled for February 14th. The FIA will then announce their final decisions and actions from the investigation at meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Bahrain on Friday 18th March – the day of first practice for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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43 comments on “No decision yet over outcome of Abu Dhabi restart investigation – FIA”

  1. In other news, the war between Russia and Ukraine has not begun, no humans landed on Mars and we don’t yet know who won the 2022 F1 season.

    1. True, and the 2021 season took more than any other season to really know who would win, normally in recent times it was possible to know after the first race who would.

      1. Interesting fact: Lewis Hamilton has only won two season openers since he joined Mercedes– 2015 and 2021.

  2. Of course.

  3. On a basic level it’s important teams have confidence in the race director, for safety reasons, not just sporting. So is that still the case with Masi? Is he trusted by teams and drivers (not just Mercedes and Red Bull)? If not, as soon as the season starts, we’re going to be discussing some controversy or other very soon, as usual, and the focus will inevitably be back on him and whether he should be in the job, what has changed if anything. I don’t see it as a viable option. Still, their call. Controversy sells, right?

    1. Michael Masi shouldn’t be doing his job based on his past performances.

      Unfortunately, in the wake of the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP, he is more likely to retain it because of the terrible precedent that would be set by dropping him after the comments by one competing team.

      1. Other teams probably commented but quietly. McLaren pitted Ricciardo in the expectation that there would be a race to the finish. Sainz was also affected because he was not able to start directly behind Verstappen. He wouldn’t have caught Max but Hamilton’s tires were very old and Sainz could have finished second. This is where the conspiracy theory in me kicks in because Sainz finishing second would have demonstrated that anyone in the top 5 could have passed Hamilton in the end and would have diminished Verstappen’s “tremendous” racing feat.

        1. Hamiltons tires were way below the max distance for them.
          Sainz never even tried to better his position in those last lap.
          Q. Anon stories are better or just as badly argumented.

          1. Sainz never even tried to better his position in those last lap.

            It’s as if he had two lapped cars between him and Verstappen that weren’t ordered to unlap themselves, but no lapped cars between himself and Bottas/Tsunoda behind. Go figure.

        2. May I suggest you watch that last lap from Carlos’ perspective?

          It might illuminate the folly of that theory, what with Carlos being slower than Daniel and losing 3 seconds to Lewis in that one lap alone.

          1. The last lap that was run is not the last lap I’m talking about. The last lap would be completely different for drivers in positions 3 thru 16 if they were allowed to take the proper positions before the restart.

          2. @jimfromus

            You can, of course, continue to assert this, just be aware of the real-life evidence to the contrary.

          3. @proesterchen
            You discount the fact that Daniel also had fresh tires just like Max. I suggest Carlos could have caught Lewis and not Max or Daniel.

  4. I’m sure Masi is kicking himself that he didn’t unlap all cars 2 laps before he did and prevent all this. If the decision had an affect on the lapped cars who didn’t get to unlap and were still fighting for points then that’s not ok but as far as Max and Lewis were concerned I don’t think it mattered either way. We can only assume that the pressure of the situation played a part in this and I hope the FIA take the human element into it along with the team bosses interventions. Masi is only human after all and hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    1. Sainz could have passed Hamilton if he was allowed to move up behind Max.

    2. Unlapping all cars as they always do would have meant the race finished under the SC as there was no time to unlap all cars. So the result is an illegal result based on the rules. We know why they did it, the question is what it the price for do it.

      Clearly the sport has fallen into ill repute more than ever and everyone know the it wasn’t Max wining but Max being handed the win of a race and a championship.

      Lewis and Mercedes made plenty of mistakes over the season which had they not, the would have been in a position to win an unprecedented 8th consecutive title. Is says a lot that for that not to happen it needed the mistakes and the intervention of Masi to change the outcome.

      I’m less concerned about Masi’s future as I am about the FiA continuing to allow Max to perform the Brazil maneuver and look the other way, even when there’s video.

      1. RandomMallard
        29th January 2022, 20:22

        Unlapping all cars as they always do would have meant the race finished under the SC as there was no time to unlap all cars. So the result is an illegal result based on the rules. We know why they did it, the question is what it the price for do it.

        I think the original comment meant Masi would be kicking himself he didn’t unlap them 2 laps from the end (which I took to mean lap 56, when the initial “lapped cars can’t overtake” message was sent out), meaning lap 57 would see them filter round, and lap 58 would be the restart for one final lap. However this neglects the fact there were still marshalls on the track where Latifi had crashed on lap 56, as the cars came round, so not letting the lapped cars past on that lap was probably correct.

      2. Lewis’ mistakes were more than made up for by his good fortune with red flags and Max’ DNF’s. It was only through all this that Lewis even got to the last race with a chance to win. Max would have wrapped it up in Jeddah or sooner without all this.

        1. I will turn it around and say that Max should’ve been black flagged in Saudi for brake testing and penalised in Brazil and Monza. Season 2021 will be remembered for different rules for Max in any given situation.

  5. All Masi had to do was to apply the rules, the best driver would have won that race.

    1. The best driver won that race instead of the best car.

      1. Average red bull had the better car over the season. Considerably better most races before Silverstone, which was a large chunk. And other races they were too. Only the last 4 were Merc better. And even then it was close.

        Also it’s funny how people neglect max and his mistakes when he was under pressure the last few races.

        And lastly, had the farce of Abu Dhabi been the other way around then entire world would have erupted. But it was Lewis who came off worse so most were just afraid to point out the obvious, like ogier

      2. Shame for the best driver he is unable to win without illegal assistance

    2. The team that best handled all the circumstances and challenges of the race did win it @abdelilah.

      1. I am sure there will be corrections if I am wrong on this ….
        There were effectively 4 different scenarios that could have played out and there doesn’t seem to be any discussion on the three that didn’t happen.
        1. Neither Max or Lewis pit for tires. End result is Lewis has track position and he wins last lap. Lewis wins.
        2. Lewis pits for tires, Max, doing the opposite, gets track position. Lewis passes him on the last lap. Lewis wins.
        3. Both drivers pit for tires. Lewis maintains track position for last lap. Lewis wins.
        4. Max pits for tires, Lewis stays out to maintain track position. Lewis gets passed on the last lap. Max wins.
        Four possible scenarios 2 of which Mercedes could have managed and they would have won the race. Only 1 of the 3 sees Max win. So all this rumination over Mercedes and Lewis loosing, doesn’t look anything other than they could have won it easily, but didn’t.
        Yes, it is understood that if the race had finished under the safety car, the outcomes change for 2 of the 4, but that wasn’t the case. Had neither or both pitted for tires (at the same time), Lewis wins.
        It’s over, done and not going to be reversed. Focus on the future.

        1. 1. Not necessarily. Verstappen’s tyres were still fresher than Hamilton’s. Nobody knows what the result might have been because it didn’t play out.
          2. Yep. Most likely – though it depends on how much of a defence Verstappen puts up.
          3. Again – not necessarily. Verstappen could have had sufficient one-lap pace and been aggressive enough to spook Hamilton, while being safe in the knowledge that if neither finishes, he still wins. Verstappen would have had DRS to assist him, also.
          4. Happened.
          So, another interpretation says that Mercedes could have significantly raised their chances of winning by pitting.
          Being in the lead, they had it all to lose. They chose to sacrifice car pace in exchange for favourable track position – not really a wise move on a track with 2-3 decent overtaking opportunities and only a one lap sprint remaining.

          I don’t think there’s much point arguing “if it had finished under SC” because it wasn’t going to. They’d all agreed to that long prior to the race even starting. Not the championship decider and finale, especially.

          It’s over, done and not going to be reversed. Focus on the future

          Yes please.

          1. Verstappen would have had DRS to assist him, also

            DRS in the first lap after a restart?

        2. @rekibsn you forgot to mention that Mercedes planned those last laps based on existing rules, that would have required if it happened that all cars needed to be unlapped, or the restart should have been done with the lapped cars still behind Lewis and Max (I don’t think it would have changed the outcome, as Max would have still overtaken Lewis, but at least it would have been the correct way).
          The main problem is that Masi invented his own rules at the time, something that has never happened before, I wouldn’t argue if Lewis lost the race due to the team’s bad strategy, but imagine the referee handcuffing a boxer and giving the other one the chance to Ko his opponent, would that be fair ? this is exactly what Masi did IMO.

        3. Your forget the option where Lewis pits, Max gains track position, and then Masi follows the written rules he has followed all season long and said he has no choice but to follow, which leads to a finish under the safety car and everyone blaming Mercedes for “throwing the championship away”.

          Also the option where Lewis pits, loses track position, then Masi follows the other written and precedented procedure in the regulations and leaves the lapped cars in place, Max builds a large gap (much larger than Lewis would have been able to due to much fresher tyres), Lewis can’t catch him in time due to the size of that gap and Mercedes “threw the championship away”.

      2. Yes indeed, Mercedes did win the championship on merit.
        Max won only thanks to Masi bending the rules.

  6. I think the findings will be that Masi did nothing wrong per the “ambiguity” of the 2021 rule book. The 2022 rules will be amended to ensure that all racers are treated equally under all restart scenarios. Behind the scenes a deal will be made with Mercedes to get them to publicly support the findings.

    1. Behind the scenes a deal will be made with Mercedes to get them to publicly support the findings.

      You had me until this part. What kind of deal can be made with Mercedes? Will it be something monetary, some kind of promise to overlook a spring or technical infringement? I understand the cynicism given Ferrari’s “deal” with respect to their engine but I do not see any parallels in this case.

    2. I strongly doubt there will be any sort of “back room deal” as you suggest here. However, I can see the rest bring correct.

      The only problem I can see is that the FIA may be scared that, if they change the rules, it will be taken as a tacit admission that the result was wrong. So, I can definitely see a case where the FIA refuse to modify any rules or even issue any new guidance, effectively supporting the RDs right to make stuff up whenever he feels like it. This would be the worst possible outcome, IMHO.

  7. It’s not just inconsistency of the applications of the rules during the last lap, it’s also the inconsistencies that we witnessed throughout the year. There are too many instances to list here.

    We need two things:
    1) Clearer rules on track limits, passing scenarios, etc
    2) Consistent applications of these rules at all events

    1. + 1 times x for many races.

    2. 100%

      We definitely need more consistency. F1 has been bad for this for as long as I have watched it, but this season has been ridiculous. The race director making up new rules in the closing laps of the finale is just the crowning glory of that dog’s dinner.

  8. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    29th January 2022, 21:19

    Michael Masi has been woeful even if you ignore the final race. He’s been unacceptable with safety, made lods of dodgy decisions and communications and lowering the standard of stewarding.

    Though winding up Mercedes and Toto may well absolve those issues.

    1. made lods of dodgy decisions and communications and lowering the standard of stewarding.

      What exactly did Masi have to do with stewarding?
      He isn’t a steward, remember.

      1. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
        30th January 2022, 14:12

        He’s a race director, he’s responsible for the consistency of stewarding.

        1. That’s not true, but he certainly is responsible for the consistency in reporting certain behaviour to the stewards.

  9. U can’t have rules for everything, and every situation. Hamilton crashed Max out of Silverstone, and Bottas crashed into Max at the Hungarian GP. Costing Max potentially 36 -50 points. So Max would of still easily won the championship, if not for the two Mercedes crashing into Max in one form or another. Masi is not perfect, but neither is Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, etc. I’m a big fan of both Mercedes and Red Bull! Lewis and Max are both great people and drivers. But Toto and Hamilton are still complaining way too much and too often. After all, even Mercedes dropped their formal legal appeal a long time ago. my 2 cents

  10. F1 seems to be yet another reflection of the world: a bleeping mess. And a waste of time for the 99.99%.

  11. It’s annoying me that what has been amazing season in 2021, the only thing I’ll remember it for is what happened in the last race. What a shame for the sport and it’s credibility.

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