The FIA is to launch a “detailed analysis and clarification exercise” around the Formula 1 season finale as the governing body says it is “tarnishing the image of the championship”.
F1’s decider in Abu Dhabi descended into controversy as Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was denied an eighth world championship after Max Verstappen grabbed victory and the title on the final lap.
Nicholas Latifi’s crash sparked a late safety car eliminated that his lead and gave Verstappen a chance to switch to fresh soft tyres.
FIA race director Michael Masi opted to move only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen out of the way then resume the race on the final lap.
Mercedes protested the outcome of the race on the basis Masi had not followed the sporting regulations correctly when he fast-tracked the removal of the safety car.
Had the safety car period been handled in the manner prescribed in the rules, the final lap would have ended under caution and Hamilton would have won the race and the championship.
Instead, Verstappen had a chance to attack Hamilton and used his fresher, softer tyres to do so successfully.
The stewards dismissed Mercedes’ protest, stating that the race director has ultimate authority on how the safety car is used and that the decision to call the safety car in “overruled” the regulation that effectively determined when that process could begin – which seemed confusing logic.
Mercedes immediately stated its intention to appeal the stewards’ decision, giving it a 96-hour window to confirm whether it would indeed take the case to the FIA’s International Court of Appeal – which it has not yet done.
It is still an unresolved issue as Mercedes has not communicated anything at all since the race ended and has also opted not to engage either its constructors’ championship-winning F1 team or its Formula E champion organisation in the FIA’s annual prizegiving ceremony.
🏆 1 day before #FIAPrizeGiving2021
— FIA (@fia) December 15, 2021
After a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on Wednesday, the FIA issued a statement that addressed the conclusion of the race and the consequences it had and stressed that the primary responsibility at any event is “to ensure the safety of everyone involved and the integrity of the sport”.
The FIA says that the use of the safety car and the communications between the race direction team and F1 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 impacting the “due celebration” of Verstappen’s drivers’ title and Mercedes’ constructors’ title.
A report was presented into the events of the finale and FIA president Jean Todt has proposed “a detailed analysis and clarification exercise for the future with all relevant parties will now take place”, which the WMSC has accepted.
“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,” said the FIA.
“It is not only Formula 1 that may benefit from this analysis, but also more generally all the other FIA circuit championships.
“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 that any identified meaningful feedback and conclusions be made before the beginning of the 2022 season.”