Ex-F1 racer Romain Grosjean believes that under-fire race director Michael Masi made the right call in Abu Dhabi.
Masi’s future is far from certain after the controversial conclusion to the 2021 title battle in Abu Dhabi.
Both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen headed to the Yas Marina Circuit tied on points, but just as Hamilton looked to be on his way to the title, the whole scenario changed.
The Safety Car came out after a crash for Nicholas Latifi, but keen to ensure one final lap of racing, Masi at first ruled that lapped cars would not get the chance to overtake.
He then changed his mind, sort of, clearing only the lapped runners between Verstappen in P2 and leader Hamilton, before the race then resumed.
Verstappen passed Hamilton on the final lap, thus snatching the title, enraging Mercedes who lodged two post-race appeals, succeeding with neither.
Hamilton has stayed silent since Abu Dhabi, while the FIA are investigating the controversy which the championship concluded under.
Grosjean though believes that Masi made the right decision, instead of allowing the title protagonists to be separated by lapped cars for that final lap.
Asked in an IndyCar press conference what he thought of Masi’s actions, Grosjean said: “There’s a few ways of seeing it, it would have been very strange to not unlap those cars and have Lewis first and then Max four cars behind over one lap for the World Championship.
“On the other hand, for Lewis it was definitely not a great call, but as a TV fan, as a spectator, for the sport, I think Michael Masi make the right decision.
“I don’t think the championship would have been nice to finish under the safety car. It would not have been nice to finish with the guys being separated on track being first and second separated by a few cars.
“I was more Lewis side than Max, so I was kind of, ‘Oh, Lewis lost it over the last part of the season; Max did the same, made an incredible job. But I thought it was so cool to get those two guys going together.”
What made the decision more controversial was that Verstappen had pitted under SC conditions for new tyres, while Hamilton had not and remained on worn hard tyres, so when the race restarted, Hamilton was a sitting duck.
But Grosjean pointed out that Verstappen did not win the title based on the events of Abu Dhabi alone.
Verstappen suffered his fair share of bad luck earlier in the season, including a tyre blowout while leading in Baku, as well as being wiped out by Valtteri Bottas at the start in Hungary.
“I think the wrong conception is to think that the World Championship went on one lap,” said Grosjean.
“It was 22 Grands Prix, and if you look at the full season, you know Max had the puncture in Baku, Valtteri Bottas crashed into Verstappen in Hungary, there was the Silverstone race [where Verstappen retired from a crash with Hamilton].
“I think at the end, if we look at how many points were lost by Verstappen, not necessarily by his fault, he was the one that deserved more the championship.
“On the Abu Dhabi race, Lewis deserved more the championship. He got unlucky over the last lap. But as a race fan, I loved that last lap, and it was super exciting to watch.”
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