FIA president opens up on ‘inheriting’ Michael Masi scandal

Formula 1 fans were left underwhelmed by the FIA’s report of the controversy at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Formula 1 faced one of its most controversial moments ever last year in Abu Dhabi, as a “manipulated” safety car procedure led to Lewis Hamilton missing out on his record eighth world title.

Race director Michael Masi, who has since been sacked, was forced to deal with a late safety car in last year’s season finale, and just when it looked set that the race would finish under the safety car, Masi allowed only the lapped drivers between Max Verstappen and Hamilton to unlap themselves.

The timing of the safety car, caused by a Nicholas Latifi crash, allowed Verstappen to pit for soft tyres while Hamilton was left out on old hards, meaning that when the race resumed it was relatively easy pickings for the Dutchman.

Since the race, Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been appointed as the FIA president, and spearheaded the investigation into the incident.

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Facing such a big controversy so early into his role was never going to be an easy task for Ben Sulayem, but fans were disappointed with the results of the investigation, as Masi was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and the FIA themselves published a very brief report of their findings.

Ben Sulayem believes that since then things have improved with the way the FIA deal with incidents, after he has had more time in the job to make changes.

“Now, if you see every time we have an issue: transparency. Go to maybe Japan with th issue that we had,” he said.

“We did a thorough report, and then it was on the FIA website before the next race to make sure that we have nothing hanging from there, and that’s after consultation.”

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The FIA president has admitted that he understands fan’s frustrations with how Abu Dhabi was handled, but has suggested that even though it was not publicised, the investigation was thorough.

“If you look at the report we did, with the NDA, that was transparent,” said Ben Sulayem.

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“I inherited something. And I will say no blame game. But when I got it, I’m just learning more about the transparency.

“I had to make a change in my management. So there have been some changes. There has been changes in the Secretary General of Sport, there have been changes in a lot of issues. And now we are again doing some changes because we are evolving.”

Lewis Hamilton will be looking to banish the demons of 2021, as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix presents him with one final opportunity to prevent his first winless year in F1.