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FIA admits Michael Masi didn’t follow rules as 2021 Abu Dhabi GP report finally published

The FIA has finally released the findings of its investigation into last year’s controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when Lewis Hamilton was denied an eighth world title in unsavoury circumstances

Michael Masi was sacked as F1 race director after his controversial decisions in Abu Dhabi
Michael Masi was sacked as F1 race director after his controversial decisions in Abu Dhabi

The FIA has admitted Michael Masi did not follow the rules when directing the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last December. Masi was removed from his position as FIA race director last month amid pressure on his position as a result of his management of the season-deciding race.

Lewis Hamilton seemed guaranteed to secure a record eighth Drivers’ Championship, only for Max Verstappen to pip him on the decisive lap after a late safety car disrupted the flow of the race. Williams’ Nicholas Latifi was involved in a crash in the closing laps, prompting the deployment of the safety car, and what followed was perhaps the most controversial moment in the sport’s history, given the circumstances surrounding Hamilton and Verstappen’s tussle for the title.

Hamilton should have finished the race behind the safety car, but Masi ordered the safety car off the track earlier than rules permitted, and also only allowed the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves – rather than all of the lapped cars – setting up a final-lap showdown between the two contenders, which Verstappen came out on top in, largely as a result of his fresher tyres with the Dutchman having recently pitted.

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The FIA confirmed the results from the race will stand, but said it will learn lessons from the incident. Its findings said: “The safety car procedure was a central topic of discussion during the detailed analysis and clarification exercise, stemming from the application of this procedure at the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP.

“The Race Director called the safety car back into the pit lane without it having completed an additional lap as required by the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations.

“It was also considered that the decisions regarding the Safety Car at the end of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix likely took into account previous discussions that made clear the Formula 1 Stakeholders (FIA, Formula 1, Teams and Drivers) preference to end races under green flag racing conditions, rather than behind a safety car, when safe to do so.

“In combination with the objective to finish under green flag racing conditions applied throughout the 2021 season, the report finds that the Race Director was acting in good faith and to the best of his knowledge given the difficult circumstances, particularly acknowledging the significant time constraints for decisions to be made and the immense pressure being applied by the teams.”

“The results of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the FIA Formula One World Championship are valid, final and cannot now be changed. In accordance with the rules, Mercedes made a protest to the stewards after the race, seeking to change the race classification. The stewards dismissed the protest and Mercedes then had an opportunity to appeal that decision to the FIA International Court of Appeal, but did not do so. There are no other available mechanisms in the rules for amending the race classification.

“The process of identifying lapped cars has up until now been a manual one and human error lead to the fact that not all cars were allowed to un-lap themselves. Due to the fact that manual interventions generally carry a higher risk of human error, software has been developed that will, from now on, automate the communication of the list of cars that must un-lap themselves. In addition, the 2022 Formula 1 Sporting Regulations have been recently updated to clarify that “all” and not “any” cars must be permitted to un-lap themselves.”

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