FIA announce investigation into Abu Dhabi controversy

Jon Wilde
Lewis Hamilton behind the Safety Car during the Abu Dhabi GP. Yas Marina December 2021.

A statement from the FIA World Motor Sport Council has promised to investigate the controversy that marred the finale to the Formula 1 season.

The eagerly-awaited title decider between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix descended into rancour as race director Michael Masi allowed the World Championship to become a one-lap showdown following a Safety Car period.

Masi was criticised for his decision to let only the five cars on the road in between leader Hamilton and second-placed Verstappen to un-lap themselves instead of all eight, setting up a straight head-to-head battle for the final tour of Yas Marina.

Verstappen, on much fresher tyres, passed Hamilton to clinch both the race victory and his first Drivers’ championship.

Mercedes unsuccessfully protested after the race and have subsequently kept their own counsel, saying nothing more in the last few days while clearly deliberating over whether to turn their stated intention to appeal the result into an official process.

The FIA, in a statement issued on Wednesday evening, have recognised the fall-out from events in Abu Dhabi is “tarnishing the image of the championship” – and have said they will study what happened “with all relevant parties”, as proposed by President Jean Todt who is about to exit his post following the maximum 12 years in office.

The statement read in full: “On Sunday, another FIA F1 World Championship season of competitive excellence concluded, and the credit goes to the participating drivers and teams. The FIA congratulates all of them for their performances in this year. It was a hard fight, and the best competition was displayed at each grand prix.

“The world watched every race with great anticipation, knowing in the end there could only be one winner. In this respect, many praised Max Verstappen for his victory, and Lewis Hamilton for his remarkable performance and sportsmanship after the closing event of the season.

“The 2021 FIA Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has prompted a large number of reactions from the F1 community and from motorsport in general, as well as in the public. The FIA’s primary responsibility at any event is to ensure the safety of everyone involved and the integrity of the sport.

“The circumstances surrounding the use of the Safety Car following the incident of driver Nicholas Latifi, and the related communications between the FIA Race Direction team and the Formula 1 teams, have notably generated significant misunderstanding and reactions from Formula 1 teams, drivers and fans – 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 and the eighth consecutive Constructors’ World Championship title won by Mercedes.

“Following the presentation of a report regarding the sequence of events that took place following the incident on lap 53 of the grand prix and in a constant drive for improvement, the FIA President proposed to the World Motor Sport Council that a detailed analysis and clarification exercise for the future with all relevant parties will now take place.

“This matter will be discussed and addressed with all the teams and drivers to draw any lessons from this situation and clarity to be provided to the participants, media and fans about the current regulations to preserve the competitive nature of our sport while ensuring the safety of the drivers and officials.

 

“It is not only Formula 1 that may benefit from this analysis but also more generally all the other FIA circuit championships.

“Following that presentation and an extensive discussion, the World Council has decided to unanimously support the President’s proposal.

“The FIA will therefore do its utmost to have this in motion within the Formula 1 governance and will propose to the Formula 1 Commission to give a clear mandate for study and proposal to the Sporting Advisory Committee, with the support of Formula 1 drivers, so any identified meaningful feedback and conclusions be made before the beginning of the 2022 season.”

 

Formula 1 controversy like no other

The call made at the end will be talked about until the end of time.