Lewis Hamilton lost the world championship to Max Verstappen after FIA race director Michael Masi took the decision to restart the Abu Dhabi GP for a final lap shoot-out following a late Safety Car period. 

Hamilton was left exposed to Verstappen - who had pitted under the Safety Car for fresh soft tyres - and the Red Bull driver powered past on the last lap to clinch his maiden world title. 

Mercedes protested the result of the race on the grounds that Masi had failed to follow the correct Safety Car protocols by only allowing the five lapped cars separating title rivals Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves. 

The reigning world champions withdrew its appeal after the FIA committed to launching an “analysis and clarification exercise” into the final laps of the Abu Dhabi GP, which the governing body admitted had “tarnished the image of the championship”. 

3011834.0064.jpg

It is understood the investigation was key to Mercedes’ decision to back down, with team principal Toto Wolff promising to hold the FIA to account when he spoke to media including Crash.net days after the season finale. 

The Sky report said the investigation began on full on Monday with the process being led by the FIA’s secretary general of motorsport, Peter Bayer. 

According to the report, the inquiry team wants to interview all those involved in the finale, including Masi, the stewards, drivers and team representatives, as part of the investigation. 

The matter is believed to be viewed as the highest priority by new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who has been leading the talks from Geneva. 

The inquiry is expected to be concluded by early February at the latest, with conclusions and proposals set to be tabled at the next meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on 3 February. 

A BBC report on Tuesday claimed that Hamilton’s future in F1 may hinge on the outcome of the FIA’s investigation. 

Wolff described the seven-time world champion as being “disillusioned” after he was “robbed” of a record-breaking eighth title. Hamilton has not spoken publicly or on social media in a month. 

The first three-day pre-season test begins in Barcelona on 23 February, with the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix taking place on 20 March. 

3011532.0064.jpg