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Why the ‘new’ footage from Abu Dhabi isn’t all that it seems

The controversy surrounding the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has re-kindled earlier this week, following the surfacing of a video revealing a supposedly unheard radio transmission between Red Bull Sporting Director Jonathan Wheatley and FIA Race Director Michael Masi.

The video, which went viral on social media, has re-ignited the anger and confusion amongst Lewis Hamilton fans, with the seven-time World Champion losing out on a potential eighth title as a consequence of Masi’s decision-making and control of the Safety Car in the final laps of the race.

The FIA are carrying out a full investigation into the events of the race, with a report due for publishing on 18 March.

What’s in the video?

The video includes some audio transmitted between Wheatley and Masi, which wasn’t broadcast on the world feed.

The audio clip reveals Wheatley radioing Masi to say, “Those lapped cars; you don’t need to let them go right the way around and catch up with the back of the pack. You only need to let them go, and then we’ve got a motor race on our hands.”

Masi replies: “Understood.” It’s important to note that this is terminology frequently used by Masi to acknowledge a radio message.

However, Wheatley’s somewhat unusual use of the words “motor race” cropped up again just after the Grand Prix ended. With Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff radioing in to tell Masi that what happened was “not right”, Masi replied, “Toto, it’s called a motor race. We went motor racing.”

Despite the video broadcasting audio unheard on the world feed, the audio itself was included on a previously published F1 highlights clip that was released four days after the race.

In a statement to RacingNews365, an FIA spokesperson said, “This is not new to us and forms part of the investigation”.

Brundle: It’s an uncomfortable radio message

Renowned broadcaster and journalist Martin Brundle said that the audio makes for “uncomfortable” listening in light of what happened moments later.

“It’s not new news, and also I think you have to understand that it’s not necessarily telling Masi something he didn’t already know,” Brundle told Sky Sports F1.

“Let’s not assume it’s giving Masi information he didn’t already know in terms of what he could and couldn’t do in terms of the lapped pack.

“Of course, it’s really uncomfortable, and a lot of people are unhappy: Hamilton fans, Mercedes fans.

“For me, the really crucial regulation that wasn’t carried out was that the Safety Car should have come in at the end of the following lap.

“But we also know that unwritten rules and meetings, which shouldn’t supersede anything, were: let’s try not to have a race finish behind the Safety Car.

“Hugely unacceptable. I met so many fans that were new to F1 last year particularly, and fans in general, that were hugely upset by what happened.

“It’s not pretty for F1 at all, but I don’t think this audio today changes the really uncomfortable narrative of what happened.”

Red Bull launched the new RB18 on Wednesday, as the 2022 F1 season approaches, but they appear to be keeping their cards close to their chest…


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