The FIA has released an executive summary of the long-awaited report into the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen took the World Championship title after overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the final lap, after a late Safety Car had been pulled in – that action having been hotly debated ever since the season finished.
Race director Michael Masi came under fire for only allowing selected lapped cars past the Safety Car, which separated Verstappen from Hamilton heading into the final lap, rather than every lapped car.
Masi has since been removed from the role of race director, and the FIA have set about making structural changes for the new season, but said the report found that Masi had acted “in good faith” during his decision making.
However, it was confirmed that Masi “called the Safety Car back into the pit lane without it having completed an additional lap as required by the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations (Article 48.12),” which acknowledges a contravention of the rule the FIA had in place which, if followed, would have seen the race finish behind the Safety Car.
A portion of the report added, though: “It was apparent from the analysis that there could be different interpretations of Article 48.12 and Article 48.13 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, and that this likely contributed to the applied procedure.
“In combination with the objective to finish under green flag racing conditions applied throughout the 2021 season, the report finds that the Race Director was acting in good faith and to the best of his knowledge given the difficult circumstances, particularly acknowledging the significant time constraints for decisions to be made and the immense pressure being applied by the teams.”
The recommended measures laid out have already mostly been actioned in the lead-up to the season, with the governing body having implemented changes which they hope will avoid a repeat of the controversy seen in Abu Dhabi.
The direct recommendations of the report are:
- The creation of a Virtual Race Control Room, which will assist the race director with decision making in real time.
- Direct radio communications between the teams and the race director will be removed, with a new “non-intrusive” questioning process to be made available to the teams instead.
- Unlapping procedures behind the Safety Car should be “reassessed”, which has since seen the wording of the rule changed from ‘any lapped cars’ to ‘all lapped cars’ must pass the Safety Car if allowed to do so.
- A new race management team, which has now been put in place through the recruitment of Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas to rotate the role of race director this season, to ease the level of pressure placed upon their shoulders.
To address the unlapping situation, the process of allowed lapped cars past has now become automated: “The process of identifying lapped cars has up until now been a manual one and human error led to the fact that not all cars were allowed to unlap themselves,” the report said.
“Due to the fact that manual interventions generally carry a higher risk of human error, software has been developed that will, from now on, automate the communication of the list of cars that must unlap themselves.”
To continue to rebuild, the FIA also confirmed a new structure is being put in place where an F1 Sporting Director will be recruited, as well as a “senior regulatory legal counsel” which will “strengthen legal support” on sporting matters on race weekends.
While most of the measures have been implemented already, the report says that any unactioned moves should now happen “as a matter of priority so that the benefit of the lessons learned from the detailed analysis and clarification exercise can be maximised for the 2022 season.”
There was also confirmation that the result of the race cannot be amended, despite the “human error” element described, adding: “The results of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the FIA Formula One World Championship are valid, final and cannot now be changed.
“In accordance with the rules, Mercedes made a protest to the stewards after the race, seeking to change the race classification. The stewards dismissed the protest and Mercedes then had an opportunity to appeal that decision to the FIA International Court of Appeal, but did not do so.
“There are no other available mechanisms in the rules for amending the race classification.”
FIA release Abu Dhabi findings
The FIA has released a summary of their findings from their report into Abu Dhabi in 2021.