FIA launches probe into contentious safety car in Abu Dhabi F1 finale

The FIA has announced it has launched a “detailed analysis and clarification exercise” into the controversial conclusion to the 2021 Formula 1 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 
(L to R): secon
(L to R): secon

Sunday’s Abu Dhabi GP ended with a contentious handling of a late Safety Car period that dramatically swung the outcome of the world championship, with Max Verstappen passing Lewis Hamilton in a final lap shoot-out to clinch his maiden world title. 

Hamilton had controlled the race up until Nicholas Latifi’s crash resulted in a Safety Car, which left the Mercedes driver exposed on old tyres after Red Bull pitted Verstappen for fresh softs, providing him a clear advantage for the restart. 

Mercedes protested the result on the grounds that FIA race director Michael Masi had not followed the normal Safety Car procedure by only allowing the lapped cars separating Hamilton and Verstappen to overtake in order to resume the race quicker, but F1’s stewards rejected the team’s argument. 

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, and following a proposal by outgoing FIA president Jean Todt, the FIA said that it will act and admitted the argument surrounding the season finale is “tarnishing the image of the championship”. 

“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,” the statement read. 

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 leads Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B on the final lap of the race.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 leads Max Verstappen (NLD) Red…

"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 that any identified meaningful feedback and conclusions be made before the beginning of the 2022 season.” 

Mercedes has remained silent ever since notifying of its intention to appeal the decision on Sunday, which would result in the case being taken to the FIA’s International Court of Appeal. 

Mercedes’ 96-hour window to push ahead with the appeal or withdraw elapses on Thursday evening, just before Verstappen is set to receive his world championship trophy at the FIA’s prize gala awards’ ceremony in Paris. 

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