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F1’s uncomfortable problem hanging over 2022 season as Verstappen and Hamilton renew feud

The first race weekend of the 2022 F1 season is underway in Bahrain as the drivers participated in the Friday practice session – who will gain the upper hand as we approach the first race of the year?

F1's problem hanging over 2022 season as Verstappen and Hamilton renew feud
F1 still has a problem hanging over the 2022 season

Since the conclusion of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the controversy surrounding the outcome of the world championship and those involved has rumbled on. After being denied a record eight title, a heartbroken Lewis Hamilton took a two-month break from social media.

“It was a difficult time for me and a time where I needed to take a step back and focus on the present,” Hamilton said at Mercedes’ car launch last month. “I eventually got to a point where I decided I would be attacking again coming into another season.”

Race director Michael Masi lost his job following his role in the saga and an enquiry was launched into what transpired at the Yas Marina circuit last December. Three months on, Hamilton prepares to rekindle his fierce rivalry with defending champion Max Verstappen, but the results of the FIA’s enquiry into last season’s title finale have yet to be released.

Initially, it was suggested that the report would be made available today (March 18), two days before the first race of the 2022 season in Bahrain. However, a meeting at the World Motor Sport Council is set to take place this week to decide whether the findings will be made available for the public to see.

This seems to be a u-turn as last month it was reported that the FIA had chosen not to disclose the results of the enquiry. All F1 teams received the report but only proposed structural changes will be revealed to the public. “The FIA president [Mohammed Ahmed bin Sulayem] led detailed discussions of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix,” a statement from F1’s governing body read.

“Feedback from the commission on matters raised will be incorporated into the president’s analysis and he will publicly present news of structural changes and action plan in the coming days.” Some of those changes saw Masi removed from his post as race director and replaced by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who will alternate the Race Director role.

Whether F1 will release their findings from the Abu Dhabi enquiry is up in the air


Getty Images)

They will be assisted by Herbie Blash – who returns to F1 having previously acted as deputy to Masi’s predecessor Charlie Whiting, as permanent senior adviser. In response to his changes, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem said: “With this plan, FIA opens the way for a new step forward in Formula 1 refereeing. Without the referees, there is no sport. Respect and support of the referees is in the essence of the FIA.”

The changes keep coming as earlier this week F1 bosses confirmed a change to the safety car rules. The governing body has clarified that moving forward, ‘all’ lapped cars must un-lap themselves before a restart.

The change replaces the wording in last year’s rules, which said ‘any’ lapped cars between the leaders should overtake and join the back of the field before a restart after a safety vehicle. However, the second rule under scrutiny following Abu Dhabi has now been changed – the requirement that the race must be restarted ‘at the end of the following lap’ after the message is relayed that lapped cars may now overtake.

Max Verstappen won his maiden world title last December in controversial circumstances (Photo by Joe Portlock – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Max Verstappen, who benefited from Masi’s controversial decision, claims the FIA’s enquiry does not need to be released and sees no issue with the circumstances surrounding his title win. “The sport doesn’t need to heal, there are these dramatic moments which are part of the sport as well,” he told BBC Sport. “F1 is a very tough world. I think Lewis can feel the pain a bit less if you already have seven [Drivers’ titles].”

He added: “I don’t think we need a full report. Of course always every year it’s good to discuss about happened in the year before. Right?

“You always analyse everything you do. So, yeah, we’ll find out and if there’s things that can be written down in an easier way, or a way to understand it better, the wording, then for sure. But yeah let’s see.”

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