Horner’s message to Masi branded ‘spookiest part’ of Abu Dhabi controversy

Michael Masi allowed a limited number of lapped cars to pass the Safety Car ahead of the final lap in Abu Dhabi.

Former racing driver Tiff Needell has pointed to a radio communication by Christian Horner to Michael Masi late on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the “spookiest part” of the 2021 championship drama.

Sir Lewis Hamilton looked set to secure his record-eighth Formula 1 world championship late on in last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix while comfortably leading rival Max Verstappen, but a late crash for Williams’ Nicholas Latifi prompted Masi to deploy the Safety Car despite the protests of Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

Red Bull took the opportunity to pit Verstappen, while Mercedes decided to keep Hamilton out fearing that, were there insufficient time to resume the race under green flag conditions, the Briton would lose out on the title by giving up track position through a pit stop.

Subsequently, there were five lapped cars between the leaders, and the race director initially declared that no lapped runners were to be allowed through.

Michael Masi in Qatar 2021.v1

However, the situation became further convoluted when Red Bull asked the Australian to allow the lapped cars go.

“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,” Jonathan Whealey told the 44-year-old.

Horner would then indicate to Masi that “we only need one racing lap,” and this irks Needell.

“Horner saying ‘we only need one racing lap’ is the spookiest part of this whole sage…” he tweeted on Wednesday.

After these messages from Red Bull, the Australian opted to allow only the five between the title protagonists go through, leading to a dramatic and contentious final lap overtake from Verstappen to earn his maiden world championship.

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These communications have actually been available to the public since mid-December, just days after the conclusion of last year’s championship, and former Formula 1 driver Martin Brundle is not sure it adds anything further to what was an already-contentious affair.

“It’s not pretty for Formula 1 at all, but I don’t think this audio today changes the really uncomfortable narrative of what happened,” he told Sky F1.

However, he described the closing events of the race at the Yas Marina Circuit as “unacceptable.”

The FIA are currently conducting a review into the closing stages of the title decider last year, and will conclude this on 18 March – two days before the start of the season in Bahrain.