FIA acknowledge ‘misunderstanding’ over F1 finale at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Max Verstappen emerged as world champion following a chaotic close to Sunday’s race

Sports Staff
Thursday 16 December 2021 08:50
Max Verstappen arrives at Red Bull Campus as Formula 1 World Champion

The FIA have acknowledged the “significant misunderstanding” caused by the dramatic and controversial ending to the Formula 1 season.

Max Verstappen emerged as world champion following a chaotic close to Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which saw him pass Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the race.

Mercedes were left incensed by race director Michael Masi’s decision to allow lapped cars to unlap themselves under a safety car, a call which effectively left race leader Hamilton a sitting duck to the hard-chasing Verstappen.

The German team lodged two protests, both of which were thrown out, leaving Verstappen to celebrate a first drivers’ crown.

The conclusion has come in for heavy criticism from those within the sport and beyond with the governing body admitting the whole saga had “tarnished” F1.

"The FIA's primary responsibility at any event is to ensure the safety of everyone involved and the integrity of the sport," read a statement.

"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."

Max Verstappen (centre) clinched his maiden Formula One title on an exciting last lap of the season

Both Mercedes and Red Bull were then repeatedly in contact with Masi during the dramatic conclusion of the race with former driver and TV analyst Martin Brundle disappointed in how the sport presented itself in that moment.

“The final few laps in Abu Dhabi, when the world’s eyes were on us in staggering numbers, were not our finest moment and some things have to change this winter. We certainly confused our fans on Sunday,” wrote Brundle in his Sky Sports column.

“If Michael wants to continue, and F1 and the governing body the FIA want to keep him, things must change.”

Jean Todt, the FIA’s current president, was already set to stand down and Brundle fears the governing body could now lack firm leadership at a decisive time for the sport’s future.

“Jean Todt retires shortly, after 12 years as President of the FIA. However, while we await a new President and his supporting team, I imagine the FIA is a little rudderless and certainly not feared by the teams, who lived in great trepidation of Mosley and the ‘bringing the sport into disrepute’ clause,” wrote Brundle.

“Until this year, any correspondence from the pit wall to Race Control was not broadcast, and it’s totally unacceptable to hear team bosses and team managers even pre-empting situations and lobbying.”

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