Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina, 2021

The tricky balancing act the FIA must pull off with its Abu Dhabi inquiry

2022 F1 season

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The first indication of how the FIA will resolve the questions thrown up by the controversial conclusion to the 2021 Formula 1 season emerged last week.

The sport’s governing body is caught on the horns of a dilemma in the wake of the Abu Dhabi row. Having promised a “detailed analysis and clarification exercise” relating to the way in which the race was restarted, which had an obvious effect on the outcome of the world championship, it now needs to find a solution which is acceptable to all parties.

On the one hand it has Red Bull and its newly-minted world champion, Max Verstappen. Any outcome which may cast doubt on the validity of his success would be both undesirable and unfair because, whatever may have gone wrong in the final laps at Yas Marina, he wasn’t to blame.

But on the other side is seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton and his team Mercedes, who are equally blameless, and clearly feel deeply wronged by the events of Abu Dhabi. They came close to appealing over the handling of last year’s finale, Hamilton has remained silent since then and Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff has spoken of their disillusionment over the handling of the title-deciding race.

Wolff pilloried the “ad-hoc decision-making” of race control and insisted “we will be holding the FIA and the decision makers accountable for making the sport more robust and the decision-making more robust and more consistent”. Mercedes are not going to be placated easily.

This is the problem now facing the FIA: Whatever it decides in light of Abu Dhabi, and whatever action it takes, it will inevitably be seen as a judgement on whether that championship-deciding race was handled correctly. And, therefore, whether the right man won.

Both sides have already made one point clear: There is no mechanism by which the outcome of the 2021 world championship may be changed. Wolff admitted as much when the team decided not to proceed with an appeal and the FIA’s secretary general for sport Peter Bayer made the same point last week. Verstappen will have the number one on his car and his crash helmet this year.

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Bayer’s recent comments gave an encouraging indication that the FIA appreciates the need to avoid a repeat of the farcical end to the 2021 championship. This comes after their original statement on the matter in mid-December gave cause for concern, as it referred to a “significant misunderstanding and reactions from Formula 1 teams, drivers and fans” over how the race had been handled, suggesting the problem lay not with the race itself, only how it was perceived.

Report: FIA indicates Masi may not continue as F1 race director
Seven weeks on, the FIA seems to grasp this is a much deeper problem than a simple matter of optics. Abu Dhabi left many fans wondering whether F1 intends to be a sporting competition or merely a made-for-television spectacle. They should be reassured by Bayer’s indication the FIA is considering significant changes in race control.

These include dividing up the race directors’ current responsibilities between multiple roles to ease the burden upon them. This looks like a smart move. The duties of the race director expanded under Charlie Whiting then – following his sudden death ahead of the 2019 season – were largely transferred to Michael Masi, with a few exceptions. The pressures of the pandemic added new layers of complexity, compressed the calendar and led to a series of new venues being added to the championship at much shorter notice than usual, including in the lead-up to last year’s season finale, all of which added to the burden upon Masi.

Other changes which Bayer indicated are under consideration include giving more remote support to the race director from a permanent, ‘mission control’-style base away from the track. And the practice of allowing team principals to lobby the race director over how incidents should be handled looks likely to end – a necessary move even if it smacks of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

The sport’s governing body appears to be taking its first steps in the right direction. But this remains a uniquely difficult matter to tackle because whatever the FIA does next, any change in its future practice may be interpreted as an admission of past errors.

In its initial response to the debacle the FIA noted the raced had provoked “an argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the championship and the due celebration of the first drivers’ world championship title won by Max Verstappen.” It is clearly anxious to avoid undermining the status of its new world champion.

The difficult balancing act it faces is how it can do that while also regaining the confidence of its most successful driver. His continued silence is no doubt calculated to ensure that point is lost on no one.

But the sport also needs to regain the trust of many fans who – irrespective of their allegiances – were unimpressed by a race in which the application of the rules bore little resemblance to what had gone before.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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124 comments on “The tricky balancing act the FIA must pull off with its Abu Dhabi inquiry”

  1. I think they should have just annulled the race just to save some face since no championship alteration occurred after Abu Dhabi and maybe allow Hamilton, Sainz and Verstappen to keep the trophies from Abu Dhabi.

    1. @krichelle That would be a breach of regulations. Apart from anything else, competitors no longer have title to trophies for results that have been annulled, nor would it be in the FIA’s gift to reissue them (as that would imply the race was not annulled).

  2. In my view, the Abu Dhabi race result should be declared as “Null and Void”. Max Verstappen will still be Champion Driver by virtue of winning more races than Lewis Hamilton. I agree with the decision to finish the event under racing conditions, but the decision to allow only some of the drivers to unlap themselves was patently wrong. And ban the teams from contacting the Race Director, other than for safety reasons, to avoid potentially influencing decisions made.

    1. But then we would have everyone questioning Spa’s legitimacy in terms of awarded points too – then would Max be champion?? Just saying!!

      1. The FIA’s main perogative has and always been to protect Max’s 🏆 which has already been tainted by the Abu Dhabi debacle. They had a chance to properly address it when mercedes protested but they chose to throw it out with some dubious rules. They hoped fans will forget but that didn’t work as well. Opening the investigation in itself is an admission to guilt which taints the validity of the Championship. I say they shot themselves in the foot.

    2. Spa and Abu Dhabi go together as two farcical races, so if you annul one you have to take the other!

    3. Champion due to fact that FIA were wimps not to blackflag brake testing and stupid rule to allow awarding Points for farce of Spa.

  3. They should be reassured by Bayer’s indication the FIA is considering significant changes in race control.

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t really reassure me, as it indicates that the FIA plan to leave the Race Director with “god powers” to ignore, change or make up new rules at will around the SC and race starts. That’s not a situation I can accept, personally, although I can understand that making any changes to such powers would be seen by some as de-legitimising Max’s WDC. If they are scared to make the difficult choice to remove the potential for abuse from the rulebook, however understandable it may be, I’ll be walking away.

    1. ” That’s not a situation I can accept, personally, although I can understand that making any changes to such powers would be seen by some as de-legitimising Max’s WDC.”

      Not de-legitimising Max’s WDC is very simple: in the first race of the season an unprecedented and highly controversial decision was made (far worse than the SC in the final race) by the RD which allowed Lewis a shot at the championship he didn’t deserve.

      If they say both those decision will lead to a rethink of the RD control, it perfectly evens out.

      1. What decision was that?

    2. @drmouse I understand your position in general from this and other posts, but I’m not sure I get what you are saying here. How, if the FIA makes ‘significant changes in race control,’ is that keeping some alleged ‘god powers’ in the hands of the RD? To me it sounds like they may do exactly what you need in order to keep watching F1, or at least until we hear otherwise. Also, assuming they make said changes I’m not sure how those would delegitimize Max’s WDC.

      For the time being imho they will retain Masi, get him some help, and change the regs surrounding how to deal with late race incidents such as what happened at AD so that they are dealt with in a more black and white manner. Imho F1 itself is not to going to be considering some list of Masi’s ‘indiscretions’ such as some posters seem to think exists. Most of the inconsistencies have been on the stewards, not Masi, and as we know inconsistencies are not unusual in F1. It is part of why there is always a side of the argument that leans towards ‘let them race,’ and not have everything scrutinized every time. I just don’t see from the article above that they won’t be going to ‘remove the potential for abuse from the rulebook,’ but of course let’s keep in perspective that there are always going to be incidents that are highly debatable no matter what, at least for car on car duels. Final lap(s) SC(s)?…yeah you’d think they can come up with something fairly black and white for that though.

      1. I have a feeling they’ll keep Masi on, but not in the Race Directors role, he will take up one of the ‘helper’ roles.

      2. How, if the FIA makes ‘significant changes in race control,’ is that keeping some alleged ‘god powers’ in the hands of the RD? To me it sounds like they may do exactly what you need in order to keep watching F1, or at least until we hear otherwise.

        You may be right, but to me it looks like they are going to put support structures in place, increase the staffing, but leave a race director in place with the same, overall, power he has now, just with more people to help him do so. I may be wrong in this, and hope I am. Only time will tell.

        Final lap(s) SC(s)?…yeah you’d think they can come up with something fairly black and white for that though.

        There already is, but it is meaningless while ever the RD can ignore it and make up something new…

    3. @drmouse It doesn’t reassure me either – because it shows the FIA doesn’t understand, and doesn’t want to understand, how it got here. Nor is it willing to face the consequences of its actions.

      Thanks to lawyers, I don’t get to walk away.

  4. What is there to balance?

    First race of the season — Lewis gifted a win with arguably the most controversial decision ever in this sport.
    Last race of the season — Lewis allowed to keep his position despite cutting the track. (Let’s not forget that Max had to give the place back after a carbon copy of such a move only two weeks earlier.)
    Last race of the season — Max gifted a win which he fully deserved had the stewards made the correct call on lap 1.

    It’s really not as hard as a very vocal, yet very subjective, minority wants us to believe it is.

    1. “arguably the most controversial decision ever in this sport.”
      Someone didn’t read the article…

    2. Well, you have already listed three examples of horrible stewarding/race managing. And there were even more. So it’s definitely time for a change, isn’t it?

    3. arguably the most controversial decision ever in this sport.

      Well, pretty much everything is arguable. But for me the Hockenheim crane takes the cake. Fortunately it meant no points in the end. But whatever you may say about Masi, Whiting was abysmally worse.

      1. I disagree Whiting was worse. He, unlike Masi, at least tried to improve things in future if mistakes were made and would never had made a decision like Masi did in Abu Dhabi or Saudi Arabia. Masi, in contrast, seems to make mistake after mistake and then try to dismiss the fact without even trying to improve (his “it’s motor racing” claim sounding more and more like an excuse for his incompetence the more he uses it)

    4. Your examples are pretty rubbish.
      1) Hamilton made the corner normally on the racing line, Vestappen wasn’t in position to take the position and drove off track to overtake Hamilton. That’s not a controversial decision in any manner, that’s overtaking off track when you’d failed to do so on track and giving the position back is required in the rules.
      2) Hamilton was well ahead of Vestappen who dived at Hamilton. In order to avoid a collision with Vestappen, who was well off the racing line and nearly went off track (on a section of track that is never touched in normal racing conditions), Hamilton had to cut the chicane (which is generally required as it’s safer). He rejoined about 3 seconds ahead but gave this advantage up so he was about 0.5 to 0.8 of a second ahead by the end of that section of track. Hamilton did as was required of him in the rules, which was he was ahead when forced off but he gave up the ‘lasting advantage’ he had gained from the avoiding action.
      3) Vestappen was indeed gifted the win by being put into a position of insurmountable advantage, but this had nothing to do with the first lap and implying it does is ridiculous.

  5. I’d like to see the guy replaced; as I have for over a year now, but I just don’t understand given the various pressures he was under, why he hasn’t just put his hands up for the AD call and say I made a mistake.

    1. Because they’ll be a never ending stream of Commercial and Legal consequences, not to mention the FIA and F1 would seem even more hopeless than they do now. They regulations are worded in a way to provide sufficient grey areas, to allow a degree of wiggle room for situations like this.

      1. +1

        Flexibility is a feature, not a bug.

      2. Some regulations have flex, but the regulations that Masi broke in Abu Dhabi have no grey area at all (he himself even confirmed this the year before)

    2. Because to retain his credibility, he needed to do that after Spa (or after one of the lesser troubles). Then training could have been issued, and either he’d still have been under supervision and “I’m working on improving” would have answered for Abu Dhabi, or he’d have been deemed good enough and “Can I have a bit more training?” might have worked (at the expense of a bit less respect than the other path and also some negativity towards whoever signed him off as “supervised enough”.

      Waiting until Abu Dhabi, when lawyers were asking for consequences, meant that “sorry” wasn’t going to cut the mustard; the injustice had cut too deep for that.

      1. I get the impression that your idea of ‘training’ is ‘doing it the way the previous guy did it’ @alianora-la-canta.

        I’d put forward that Race Direction – especially for F1 – is more art than science, and so everyone will do it differently regardless of what they know, have experienced or have been told.
        If you were suggesting that it was done THE (one and only) right way before but isn’t now, I’d question why Masi isn’t allowed the same freedom to take charge and personalise the role that Whiting was. Why can’t he have his own signature style and personality? Why should he have to be the new Charlie Whiting, and not just Michael Masi?
        “Because some people don’t like it” is not the right answer, of course.

  6. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    31st January 2022, 15:16

    There is widespread acceptance across the sport that race director Michael Masi failed to follow the rules correctly during a late safety-car period in the title-deciding race.

    Many insiders admit that Masi made a series of operational errors in the closing laps at Yas Marina that were contrary to the rules and accepted protocols.

    Some senior insiders say they cannot see how Masi can credibly remain in his role into another season, arguing not only that Abu Dhabi fatally undermined his credibility, but that the errors he made there were merely the biggest and latest of a series over the course of the 2021 season and before.

    Having read the above comments elsewhere it does question the validity of the WDC and the season as a whole.

  7. Seeing what happened at Spa, I wonder how he kept his job after that “race”. But people seem to have a very short memory. Implying he made just one wrong decision through the whole year.
    It doesn’t necessarily make me happy if he goes or not. But he’s the perfect scapegoat for the way the stewarding and race direction has been for a long time. Even since Whiting times. Those who say Whiting was more consistent seem to forget the farce that was Mexico 2016.

    1. I don’t think anyone is implying he made only one wrong decision this season. However, the AD SC call is certainly very near the top of the list of the worst calls he has made this, at the very least.

    2. @omarr-pepper
      This is what baffles me the most. Masi has been a mess since the day he took over though Charlie – and I don’t like to speak badly about those who left us – was controversial to say the least and a dictator too.

      I’ll add the 2010 British GP and his statement regarding the drive through penalty given to Alonso that pushed Ferrari to contradict him issuing the radio transcript and the European GP (Valencia) the same year and the SC farce. Two episodes that clearly deprived Alonso from a 3rd title.

      Just to remind the people that are relentlessly bringing Whiting’s name just to rubbish Masi, that because of his handling of the 2014 Japanese GP, Jules Bianchi is no longer with us.

      1. Jack (@jackisthestig)
        31st January 2022, 16:45

        I’m sorry but Jules Bianchi was responsible for his own accident. There is no more serious a warning to drivers of potential danger ahead than the double waved yellow flags he ignored. Safety cars and red flags, as available at the time, are merely procedural and not a guide for how much to slow down by.

        If Charlie Whiting was at fault for anything surrounding the accident it was allowing a culture of disregard for the severity of marshal’s signals to persist.

        1. Not being facetious here but can someone remind me of all the times Masi has messed up, and I mean Masi himself, not incidents that were decided by the stewards and were out of Masi’s hands?

          1. @robbie Just counting 2021, and just counting known, unambiguous breaches of F1 regulations that have legal and insurance implications (not just regulatory ones)…

            Spa – sending cars out on track without medical cover (no landing position at the hospital = no medical helicopter, and no way to get a road ambulance out of the venue, let alone to a local hospital, in the prescribed 20 minutes). That may even have invalidated the event insurance, which is relevant to any fans who sue due to problems at the venue caused by the against-regulations breach of the 3-hour time limit on races.

            Abu Dhabi – partial unlap with insufficient gap provided before launching the cars for the last lap. This nearly caused multiple collisions. The FIA is required to avoid causing accidents or near misses that are wholly or predominantly through the FIA’s action. This also may have breached insurance due to how insurance works in the UAE, which is relevant since teams and drivers could potentially claim monies for anything they lost due to that behaviour.

            (I may talk about these a lot, but they are key to understanding the problem. Especially since, judging by other series governed by the FIA this winter, this is a throughgoing issue speaking to, at minimum, race director training in general. Removing Masi is unlikely to do more than put a dent in the broader issue).

        2. @jackisthestig
          At first, The race took place in more dangerous conditions than this year’s Belgian GP in Japan’s typhoon season. Whiting by his own admission said he was aware of the threat and discussed the possibility of moving forward the start of the Japanese GP from 3pm due to weather fears, but that was rejected by race organisers. He simply put the blame on them while everybody – even the casual fans – knows that the FIA can still override the race organisers decision on safety basis. This was confirmed by Max Mosley at the time.

          Furthermore, Bianchi was transferred to the hospital by ambulance because the medical helicopter can take off from the circuit but cannot land at the hospital. This alone is a valid reason to cancel the entire event as per safety rules. For example, the FP1 and FP2 of the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix were cancelled because bad weather prevented the medical helicopter to fly. The race resumed only when the FIA ensured a back-up plan to ensure that a badly injured driver can get to the nearest hospital in a reasonable time.

          Also the decision not to deploy a SC despite the bad weather conditions and in the presence of a crane that was removing Sutil’s car and with the tools at the race director’s disposal is still inexplicable not only for me . Even if Bianchi has sufficiently slowed down he could still have aquaplaned and crashed into the crane. A year before in the 2013 Canadian GP a marshal was killed after having being hit by a recovery vehicle and he wasn’t going too fast.

          Moreover, the FIA and Whiting that were blaming Jules for speeding under double yellow flags have consistently failed to ensure that double yellow waved flags are observed to the standard required by the World Motor Sport Council and issue proper penalties in case there were breaches.

          A few races earlier in the 2014 German GP, Sutil’s Sauber was parked horizontally on the straight which normally prompt the SC deployment. Instead double yellow flags were shown and the marshals were left to recover the car in dangerous conditions while the cars were travelling unpunished for lap after lap at speeds in excess of 240Kmh.

          1. the medical helicopter can take off from the circuit but cannot land at the hospital. This alone is a valid reason to cancel the entire event as per safety rules. For example, the FP1 and FP2 of the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix were cancelled because bad weather prevented the medical helicopter to fly.

            The FIA have maximum transfer times to a designated hospital but do not require any specific mode of transportation.

            In case of the Nürgburgring, the simple truth is that no other mode of transportation can guarantee that maximum transfer time, so Formula 1 sessions can only go ahead if the helicopters can take off, fly to and land at the designated hospital.

            To this end, for 2020’s Eifel GP, the organizers prepared an extra landing pad a few kilometres from the circuit itself and out of the usual fog zone. An ambulance would have transported the injured person to that pad in case of emergency, at which point they would have been put into a helicopter and flown to either of the designated hospitals in the region.

      2. Take note of that – the settlement at the end of the Jules Bianchi case may well come into play if this goes the way I suspect…

    3. Masi’s made quite a lot of bad calls, Abu Dhabi being the most recent and egregious of them.

  8. It’s actually not that difficult. It does require doing something almost unheard of by the FIA– which is standing up, and saying “we screwed up”.

    There’s no shame in saying that it was a long, complex season, that Masi was under pressure due to too many hats, too many people with direct access, and a desire to try to satisfy all parties. As a result, there were lapses in judgement that appeared, at first glance, to be supported by the regulations, hence the decision by the stewards.

    They have two options– let the results stand, or declare the Abu Dhabi race results null– this would still leave Verstappen as champion, since he had more wins. This would annoy Hamilton, but would be closer to “fair”– although I believe it might affect Sainz’s position in the WDC.

    Then they need to restructure the FIA’s presence at each event– split the safety/technical duties (something I think Masi would be good at) from the job of Race Control. Race Control itself might need a more formal, three person setup.

    Finally, we need transparency– if there’s an incident on the track involving a potential violation, it needs to go to the stewards. Even if they decide no action is necessary, that’s fine, but there should never be a “no investigation necessary” flag. The guidelines for enforcing the regulations should be publicly available, and subject to review and input. Maybe every 5 or so races, there should be a review of recent incidents– not to change them, but to learn from them, and establish better guidelines going forward.

    One thing I have considerable respect for IndyCar is their handling of racing incidents– they’re efficient, thorough, they emphasize fairness, and they’re not afraid to fix a problem with the regulations between race weekends.

    1. Or… Liberty could initiate a rebranding effort: Formula Null. Where every race is a unique expression of Netflix polling data.

  9. They should admit that the event were not appropriate given the circumstances but result is kept given there is no way to change the outcome given the set of rules, and come with a clarification about future handling of similar situation (decision process) and incident (if race control is messing up, what will happen with results).

    But F1 being F1, we will probably get something that is like a thick smog and doesn’t satisfy anyone. Time will tell, but surely the statement will be as much towards the last race event as it will define the position of F1 between sport or entertainment.

    1. @jeanrien The regulations as written outright require the result be changed, so if the FIA pretends otherwise, it will alienate anyone who expects F1 to be a sport and would like there to be a 2022 season.

      1. Exactly. The problem was simply that the last laps were arbitrary in the extreme. So, the FIA should admit that the regulations were not followed correctly and THUS, the race results will be taken from the body of the race that was run correctly.
        The only folks who will have a problem with this are the folks that do not have a problem with Max winning the race….and thus the Championship.
        I have been following F1 since 1959, and there have been many instances of rules interpretation affecting racing outcomes, this, however, is going to set a new standard for misinterpretation. (On a separate post a commentator stated that the FIA could not invalidate the MV -WDC because he had done nothing wrong. Pardon me. He certainly did nothing wrong, but that does in no way make the result correct.
        Not withstanding the above, Max will be champion, and just as assuredly, this championship will always be seen as more than tarnished….it will be seen as undeserved.

  10. Verstappen’s title will always be tarnished by those who feel the need to cast doubts over it.
    From what I read, most have moved on, accepting that Verstappen only played the cards he got dealt with and that over the entire season isn’t an undeserved champion. That group focusses on how to improve the situation and how to clarify the rulebook so it won’t happen again. In that light it’s not so hard to say ‘we screwed up’ without tarnishing Verstappen’s title.

    1. Over the entire season he indeed deserved more than hamilton, that should be enough to not put an asterisk.

      1. @esploratore1 It’s impossibly subjective to say who was more ‘deserving.’ That’s not to see that Verstappen isn’t a worthy champion. However, he was gifted the Abu Dhabi race and the championship by Masi’s bizarre decisions. Luck is a factor always and Max had plenty of bad luck (and some good luck) over the season. But that’s not the same as the race director intervening and basically altering the outcome of the race and the championship with, as Mercedes put it, ‘ad hoc’ decisions that he knew would give the overwhelming advantage to one of the two drivers in a race ending that he explicitly said was enabled by himself to be a ‘showdown’ between two cars (and two cars only). That’s why he cleared only the cars between Lewis and Max. That was the only bit of the show he was interested in making sure the audience saw – ignoring all the races of all other drivers. And yet in producing that ‘showdown’ he also effectively, and knowingly, allowed one of those drivers the equivalent of an open goal.
        So yes, unfortunately, Max’s title does have these facts hanging over it.

        1. The RD only created a race under green.
          The result of the race has nothing to do with that. No “handing” there.
          Merc took a gamble and lost. Max passed Lewis fair and won.

          1. Those are poor arguments as Masi didn’t need to do what he did to ensure a race finish under green flags (restarting without back markers unlapping would have achieve that and is within the rules). Claiming Mercedes “gambled and lost” implies they were playing a fair game, rather then one where the rules were changed after they’d made their decision.

        2. Yes…..obvious really. Take someone who has NO interest in F1 and show them the race…explain the rules as they are written. And ask them what they think a fair outcome should be. And, it is not a race…it is the entire championship, and a championship that would have presented us with a driver establishing the most championships…..ever! Max will never put this behind him….sadly, neither will the FIA.

          1. @theroswellite

            Why limit yourself to one race then? Why not ask whether it is fair for one competitor to cut the track for half the race? Or whether it was fair for Lewis to cut the chicane early at Abu Dhabi.

            You are selective in your indignation.

      2. He was a worthy contender but whether he’s a worthy champion or not isn’t the point and seems to only come up as one of many silly arguments to defend Masi.

        1. Exactly. Really any competitor in a position to win the championship is worthy or deserving. They only become not so when they do something completely unsporting to win. And even then it’s going to be controversial and subjective. None of that erases the point that without Masi intervening to alter (make up) the SC rules, retrospectively claiming some dubious ‘absolute power’ to do so, Hamilton would have won the race and the 2021 title. Just that simple.

  11. Just before the report Massi will resign citing his wish to spend more time with his family.

    The FIA will thank him for his contribution to motorsport and quietly release a report which absolves anyone of any blame.

    Massi will then quietly return to the FIA in 2023 as a president for diversity in motorsport (or some other newly created position).

  12. My issue is that it appears that the solution has to be seen to cover what happened at Abu Dhabi to the satisfaction of everyone. Surely the FIA should be concentrating on the truth and not the narrative and trying to save face.

    If the FIA find that their actions cost Lewis the championship then they will just have to issue a grovelling apology, explain what they are doing to prevent it happening again and just hope that Lewis will commit to F1. If this is perceived to undermine Max then so be it, Max probably doesn’t care anyway and any damage will only be short term but at least they will be seen to be doing the right thing.

    I can’t see how any attempted spinning of the narrative to try and balance the needs of MB and RBR will help since everyone will assume this narrative is politically driven. This would be suicidal given that their is a new FIA president who will not want this used against him in future.

    1. the truth and not the narrative

      The facts of the case have been clear since the evening of the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

      I would agree that the narrative spun around these facts can largely be discarded as specific parts of the F1 media jumping at the chance to increase audience engagement over the otherwise largely barren of any relevant revelations winter break.

  13. Why a article about this. It’s window dressing. They will drag this out until the new cars are shown or the season starts and move on. They got the winner they wanted.

    1. Why a article about this.

      For the same reason this whole topic has been kept simmering in certain circles of the Formula 1 media for the past 7 weeks – to sell ads.

  14. No, not difficult at all. Tell the truth.

  15. One face saving option for the FIA might be to step back from having any day to day, week to week, season to season involvement with the F1 championship, and to leave all that responsibility to an F1 Administration. So all the F1 (and maybe F2) rules, regulations, and running of the events are governed by this F1 administration, leaving the FIA to deal with rules relating to other motor sports. Or maybe it should be the FIA sets the minimum standards for safety and emergency response, e.g. requirement for crash testing of a car before the season starts, availability of a helicopter at a Grand prix to take an injured driver to hospital, rules about how many marshals with Yellow Flags should be around a race track, etc, and to give guidelines on those sorts of things when a Grand prix is being run, and to leave all the other rules and protocols, e.g. type of engine, weight of a car, size of the wheels, etc, for F1 to sort out by themselves. So F1 would have their own administration that governs rules relating to cars, the running of a Grand prix (and the support races), etc, so then the FIA only needs to get involved when there is a question relating to questions about safety and such like.
    So, for example, if a Race Director unexpectedly interpreted some rules in a new way, then the responsibility of dealing with the fall out from that would belong to the F1 Administration and not the FIA.

  16. “…whatever may have gone wrong in the final laps at Yas Marina, he wasn’t to blame…” – no more was Kimi to blame for Haas producing a dog of a car; on that basis, should he be WDC?

    Hamilton was robbed of victory by the arbitrariness of the race director. The fair outcome would be to call the result at the end of the previous lap.

  17. I feel like the issue here is purely semantics. It keeps being referred to as the “Abu Dhabi Inquiry”. The problem with calling it that (as this article points out) is any decision they reach will therefore carry an endorsement of whether the outcome of the Abu Dhabi race was/was not legitimate. IMO that is the wrong way to go about this. Instead, this should be an inquiry to the regulations; an investigation as to whether changes need to be enacted. They can use the Abu Dhabi GP as part of the investigation, amongst other races and instances as evidence, but I feel directly reporting on a singular race result should not be the focus of the findings.

    There’s nothing wrong with admitting room for improvement. Zero sports leagues on the planet have got their rulebook bang-on – there are always imperfections as a sport, our society, & the world evolves. That admission, in and of itself, does not disqualify all the results preceding a change, because the rulebook is still the same for everyone at any given moment in time. But you can still acknowledge moments of revelation where it’s realized a change is necessary. However if these findings are focused on concluding just how this one race was handled (as how it currently reads), then the possible outcomes are either 1) the results are delegitimate, or 2) the rulebook is perfect as it is; both of which are inherently wrong.

    But this remains a uniquely difficult matter to tackle because whatever the FIA does next, any change in its future practice may be interpreted as an admission of past errors.

    And should changes be made, unfortunately a lot of people *will* perceive it as an interpretation that the AD GP is not legitimate. But people’s opinions on that is something the FIA has no control over. The best they can do is to avoid implying that their investigation holds weight over a singular result, and instead give an opinion over the ruleset as a whole which governed that result and all others that came before it.

    1. Part of the reason it is framed in this way is due to the continued milking of this story by the, largely British, media surrounding F1. When the FIA stated ahead of the Abu Dhabi race that it would be very strict on any incidents between the title contenders, did that mean it was a way to delegitimise the result of the Silverstone race? That was after all the biggest and most consequential incident between them of the whole season.

      Not in the slightest, of course. Ecclestone wasn’t wrong when he highlighted how much cleverer Mercedes is than Red Bull at playing the frame-game.

      1. Are you trying to say that it all worked out OK because of the Silverstone incident (the one that Lewis was found mainly at fault but not solely, just as Max was mainly at fault at Monza) because that just doesn’t square

    2. @yankeef1 The regulations themselves make it clear Abu Dhabi is not legitimate, just like Spa (but due to different parts of the rulebook). In both cases, the ultimate problem was that the FIA refused to apply a crystal-clear regulation.

      1. RandomMallard
        31st January 2022, 19:32

        @alianora-la-canta As farcical as Spa was, I’m not sure the race could be seen as invalid. We’re more than two laps completed? Yes. Then points have to be awarded. As far as I’m aware (and I’m not certain, so please do correct me if I’m wrong), the rules do not stipulate there has to be green flag running.

        Should we be giving points for no racing? As a concept, no. However unfortunately, under the regulations as they’re currently written, I think we have to.

        I suppose there’s the extending the time limit, however that was claimed under Force Majure and I think once thats claimed it pretty much is anything goes. Again, this shouldn’t be the case, however I think it probably has the standing required. If otherwise I’m sure we would have seen teams protest the result after the race.

        1. RandomMallard
          31st January 2022, 19:34

          Oh sorry I hadn’t seen your point below about the medical helicopter. My bad.

          If this was the case, then I can understand why there could be an argument about whether it was valid. However, I still think we would have seen protests had this been the case.

          1. The medical helicopter narrative is false.
            There was a construction under which they were able to reach a hospital in the given time.
            Helicopter is not mandatory for spa!

          2. RandomMallard
            1st February 2022, 7:13

            Ahh OK if that’s the case it makes sense. I was aware it didn’t have to be a helicopter, I think it’s something like they have to be able to reach a serious trauma unit in 25 minutes or something like that. Spa isn’t exactly a major population hotspot, so surprised you could reach a trauma unit on the road in that time (unless it’s at the medical centre?)

  18. At this point I think most have gotten over the result and are more interested in hearing how the FIA plan to prevent the numerous mistakes and possible misinterpretation of the rules that took place during the season from occurring in the future.

    1. Reading comments on this forum i’m not sure “At this point I think most have gotten over the result” is true.

      1. Well, what did you expect on a site that has spent significant resources in the last 7 weeks on questioning the results of the 2021 Formula 1 season?

        And in the comment section of an article that in its headline suggests that the ungracious winners of the 2021 Formula 1 World Constructors Championship somehow find themselves in a position to extract concessions from the nominally independent governing body of the sport they have decided to continue to participate in?

        1. What is interesting is that we have not heard from a single person who is educated, trained and has experience of interpreting and implementing the sporting regulations. We have only heard the “opinions” of journalists and those connected to F1. I am surprised that no F1 journalist has sought out this type of source to get the inside information even if it is off the record. Perhaps I missed it? Or is this the state of F1 journalism?

          1. There were a couple of articles in the days following the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix around someone claiming that Mercedes had a supposedly “good legal basis” to appeal its result. Which is, unsurprisingly, exactly what you’d expect a lawyer to suggest, don’t you?

            Of course, that appeal never happened, Mercedes very wisely deciding not to pursue this endeavour.

  19. Any outcome which may cast doubt on the validity of his success would be both undesirable and unfair

    The problem with that theory is that Max is only claimed to be champion because the FIA broke its own regulations in Spa and Abu Dhabi (and then refused to investigate why it broke its own regulations to run without medical cover in Spa, only willing to discuss more minor issues like points distribution). Given the many other incidents the FIA had of questionable decision-making (largely benefitting Max but sometimes also benefitting Lewis), the refusal of the FIA to consider anything other than the last 5 minutes (and then only because of lawyers, as far as I can tell), and investigators who are supposed to remain impartial already giving a running commentary several weeks before the result…

    The FIA’s actions themselves cast severe doubt on the validity of his success; there is nothing the investigation can do to retrieve that situation. This is why annulling the championship is the least damaging option for F1 and the FIA.

    Between this, the Dakar serial competitor collision incidents (and how they were handled against regulations) and Formula E this weekend (there is no regulation that permits a Safety Car to cause collisions, nor to have a crane on a blind corner “protected” by a Safety Car that was clearly going too fast for the situation)… …the impression is that the FIA entire needs an overhaul, to return to its duties of safety and reasonable administration of competition. If that is beyond the FIA’s abilities, then the second replacement of the governing body in 42 years will be necessary if currently-governed-by-FIA motorsport plans to survive the next few years.

    1. @alianora-la-canta FIA and Liberty Media gave us fans a chance to say F1 is moving away from the sporting side and towards the show. Maybe they are secretly doing same as XFL tried to do to NFL in early 2000s.

      1. @qeki You mean that survey they elected not to offer any meaningful questions concerning sport vs keyfabe, where the powers-that-be first tried using as an email harvesting exercise and then decided they could do results analysis for before the closing date for questionnaires? That opportunity?

  20. I fully understand Max did nothing wrong but neither did Lewis. There can only be one winner and whether we like it or not that is Max. What I would like to hear is did Christian do anything wrong. I do not believe Masi came up with the idea of unlapping the cars between Lewis and Max on his own. I believe Christian pressured him to move Max up to be directly behind Lewis who as we know was a sitting duck with old tires. Now many people have said it was Mercedes fault for not bringing Lewis in and putting new tires on to be equal to Max but if he did and came out behind Max and the rules are followed and the race finishes behind the safety car, Lewis loses and Mercedes looks like idiots for bringing him in. Mercedes left Lewis out knowing that the rules will end the race under yellow then all hell broke lose and Lewis was robbed of his Championship, not by another racer but by RC.

    1. @Stern

      Both Toto and Christian pressured Masi, where the former overstepped the line much more, trying to prevent a safety car, despite the risks. He also told Masi what to do, told Masi that he was wrong (without even saying why) and used an inappropriate way to address him (‘Mikey’).

      Interesting how Toto is completely missing from your one-sided narrative.

  21. I dont like the idea of the FIA/ Liberty running their own “mission control” centre. I fear them running simulations during a race to see which possibility gives them the desired outcome.

    1. Mission control will be the place where the votes are counted for ‘Fan Boost’
      Three laps at a higher engine mode, somewhere else off line will be the activation zone box for ‘Attack Mode’ because everybody knows there’s no business like show business…

  22. Is it possible to Un-jump the Shark?

  23. Don’t understand the fear of the media to say it. There’s nothing to protect. Max Verstappen didn’t “win” the championship. He was GIVEN the championship through a highle irregular series of events that were specifically against the FiA’s own rules.

    That’s it, nothing more complicated than that.

    No one want to take away that championship and hand it to Hamilton, Mercedes. But we all saw what happened, to pretend otherwise is to live in delusion. The asterisk to the 2021 WDC is there for ever. And it’s no fault to Max or Hamilton.

    1. He was GIVEN the championship

      Please note that you are arguing for a race to be finished under yellow despite the track being cleared.

      1. He’s asking for the regulations to be followed as they are written (and in line with the precedence that Masi himself had already set).

        1. He’s literally asking for a driver to be GIVEN the Championship rather than the race to resume, on a clear track, under green.

          Which seems odd in the light of this same comment maligning GIVING Championships to drivers.

          1. And your retort seems equally at odds given it was given by an interpretation of the rule set that has never been undertaken prior.

            Swings both ways, no matter how hard you try to insist it doesn’t.

          2. @bradders

            The disconnect with reality is fully contained in the OP’s comment, no need to bring in anything beyond it.

      2. The track being clear is not the only parameter to restarting the race.

        By the rule book
        1) all cars needed to unlap themselves, and get into formation. Which would have taken one more lap.
        2) The SC would then have remained on track one more lap and only pulled into the pits one what would have been the last lap of the race.

        As per the rules, written and executed many times before.

        But it sounds like you either got the result you wanted or you’re good with the sport not following the rules to get you the result you wanted.

        1. By the rule book

          Have you not read the FIA’s decision on this question or are you wilfully choosing to ignore it?

          1. Yeah, and that’s why it’s being investigated…

          2. @proesterchen The FIA’s decision blatantly breached its own regulations and thus is incompatible with valid sporting conduct from the governing body.

    2. There is also an asterisk for the 1950 F1 WDC. It is sooo unfair that your hero just had not been born yet, would have aced it otherwise.

      1. False. Age bars didn’t exist in F1 back then (such did not become regulated in F1 until 1981), so there is no regulation (let alone a broken regulation) to cite against 1950’s “invalidity-by-birth” argument.

  24. The sport’s governing body is caught on the horns of a dilemma in the wake of the Abu Dhabi row. Having promised a “detailed analysis and clarification exercise” relating to the way in which the race was restarted, which had an obvious effect on the outcome of the world championship, it now needs to find a solution which is acceptable to all parties.

    * of their own making.

    Mercedes are not going to be placated easily

    Not just Mercedes, several other teams are dissatisfied with the way decisions have been made over the last couple of seasons. The level of consistency has fallen since Masi has taken charge, but this is no accident and not to be regarded as incompetence.
    Liberty Media have been clear in their desire to ramp up the “excitement” from the day they took over, the goal was to maximise profits. The FIA has been happy to accommodate them, not that Ecclestone and his mate Max Mosely were much better. The problem for Liberty is they are a publically listed company. Bad publicity in the form of race-fixing or manipulation is not what they need right now.

  25. I’m really not sure how they can fix this, Masi’s actions seriously disadvantaged one of the title contenders by inconsistent application of rules. The result does suit quite a few people which I hope wasn’t intentional but I can understand Mercedes and Hamilton disillusionment. So on one hand we have the new champion which bring new drama and a mass following in another country on the other we have the only Black driver ever in racing in formula one being at the wrong end of a institutional cock-up which is going to make some question FIAs equality, whilst not diminishing Max’s / RBs achievement. Maybe they need to share the title ……..

    I won’t be watching anymore if the new season is the same.

    1. @stjs16

      The other title contender was also disadvantaged by an inconsistent application of the rules, being allowed to defend an overtake by cutting a chicane.

      I won’t be watching anymore if the new season is the same.

      With your biases, perhaps you shouldn’t, if you can’t deal with your favorite losing.

      1. You assume wrong, I won’t, who did you back?

  26. And so we arrive at bargaining. And after only 7 weeks.

    The difficult balancing act it faces is how it can do that while also regaining the confidence of its most successful driver.

    You got to be f*ing kidding me? There’s no balancing to be done. And either Lewis races for Mercedes or he doesn’t.

    To the FIA, that’s at most a question of super license revenue.

  27. I’m very much hoping Lewis Hamilton retires and Toto Wolf is severely reprimanded for not accepting the official race outcome, bullying the Race Director and inspiring a legion of toxic fans to ruin the sport. I think I will be disappointed though.

    1. Toxic fans? By your very statement, that is you,

      1. It’s among the worst things this whole charade has unleashed; this wave of horribly toxic people looking for anything, no matter how small, to attack Hamilton with.

        1. @Craig

          No, it has exposed so many Lewisfans…

          1. Huh, right. Only Lewis fans?

  28. @Paulo

    I think I will be disappointed though.

    Well, you shouldn’t be. The sport needs clear cut rules that can and are followed to allow the best possible outcomes for the fans and the team/drivers.
    The 2021 season will be remembered as the most contrived and disappointing use of questionable loopholes within the regulations, to produce a “race to the flag” result in F1 history.

  29. It’s not tricky and there’s no real balancing act required. They need to admit they made mistakes. Yes it will bring Verstappen’s championship into doubt but that doesn’t matter now. There’s no appeal, it’s off the table for that to be changed.

    Any attempt to justify Verstappen’s championship will just inhibit the investigation. The fact that this mistake decided the championship in a way, needs to be removed from the discussion.

    Not following the sporting regulations. Why it happened, how it happened, and how it can be stopped from happening again need to be the sole focus. And while they’re there, they should be looking at why it happens so often, with regards to ignoring track limits…

    1. You are setting yourself up for disappointment.

    2. You are pushing these nonsense comments about Verstappen’schampionship not justified that one would think you have stake in netflix and currently fuming about that yet you payed a lot of money to have your very marketable asset win another fake championship, yet he is so weakmind not even rigging the championship for hamil enough. And in the end the least dts and american expansion compatible driver won.
      Should be sady day for you, but no refunds bro

      1. Says the guy that is glad Hamilton didn’t win an 8th title because “stat padding”. LOL It must be so painful to even acknowledge they’re tied at 7.

  30. Lewis Hamilton lost the championship. He had opportunities to seal the championship on multiple occasions. Certain individuals just need to come to terms with it. Keep talking about it thought for as long as possible; it just reaffirms the truth that Lewis lost. The retort is the same every time. Reminding people every time it is brought up. Lewis lost.

    1. What a mature viewpoint.

    2. Correct….he lost….there is no debate about that. The debate is about the fairness of the outcome, and if it was unfair…what is the just way forward (to include the reversal of the results???)….that is the debate.

    3. He would have won, if the RD hadnt manipulated the last race braking the rules. Every driver lost points throughout the season by mistakes or bad decisions. But the WDC was decided by manipulation.

  31. @stash but not for the farcical end of the last race he would have made up for his mistakes.

  32. Matija Majdanac
    1st February 2022, 14:47

    Toto and Mercedes really brought out the worst out of people, even Lewis is ashamed by their behaviour. Best driver won, if anything it is some kind of karma for Hungary and Silverstone.

    1. U spoke to Lewis?

  33. Masi is truly the darth vader of f1. Season long he and his stewards were making way for another rigged championship for Hamilton and Merc and at the last moment he threw them into the pit as a moment of redemption, which as in the film might lead to his eventual “death”
    Still thankfull to this day that Michaels record is still standing and doesnt got devalued by the artificial statpadding of Hamilton.

  34. It is not so much about whether Mercedes and Hamilton will accept the findings about the final race, but about the questionable findings and penalties, or not, for the whole season, that affected many teams.
    Silverstone, many said it was racing incident, and that Verstappen could have pulled away from the collision and been given the place back.
    Questionable decision and penalty at Austria for Lando Norris, especially dubious after the famous non-incident at turn 4 in Brazil.
    The minor technical infringement, nut and bolt came loose, resulting in qualifying DSQ, When normally it would have been a slap on the wrist and told to make sure it doesn’t happen again. While all the time RBR were trying many to run a vibrating rear wing and faulty DRS actuator with no public response from the FIA.

    I’m sure I have forgotten other dubious decisions that all teams were not happy about.

  35. The key thing is not trying to pull off a balancing act. Trying to pull off a balancing act leads to inconsistent convuluted decisions, which is kind of the reason why F1 is in this mess… Just clarify the rule book, the race directors powers to go beyond them, and the teams ability to influence them. Forget the emotion of this year’s championship and move on and create a fairer, better more transparent F1.

  36. My feeling is that going forward there will not be a Race Director going forwards.
    I think there will be a Race Direction team, consisting of various key players responsible for governing safe and fair race weekends. I could see Masi heading up this team, but as more of a manager than a sole operator.

    Personally I think this strikes the right balance in providing reform, and acknowledging that things can be better. While, also respecting that Masi had a very short window in which to apply his interpretation of the rules (which the stewards confirmed was reasonable).

  37. it now needs to find a solution which is acceptable to all parties.

    I don’t see the need for this at all. It is clear cut. Race teams had too much influence on the Race Director during the season. This all came at a peak at the last race. Therefore the investigation will find that the teams overstepped their welcome towards the Race Director and will be stripped off this possibility. Time to move on. It’s just the media that keeps this alive. Same story with Lewis’ silence. The guy is just simply enjoying his holidays. Why should he comment? It was clear he was disappointed in the way thing unfolded, congratulated Max and left for holidays. He will walk back into the paddock and start the 2022 season like he did all those previous seasons. There really isn’t much more to it.
    The thing that needs addressing is the gamification of a sport by the combo Liberty/FIA in an ever relentless quest for more revenue.

    1. False. There are quite a few lawyers keeping it alive as well. There were times when it felt like any hope of F1 being run as a sport was held by the very people doing the lobbying. If the FIA pretends the conclusion of 2021 is valid, it is likely to face problems bringing the series to multiple countries over the course of 2022, because F1 will have breached their regulations for the definition of a sport and/or for safe conduct of its activities.

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