FIA warned they haven’t ‘put to bed all the questions from Abu Dhabi’

Last year's championship concluded in controversial fashion at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix due to a late Safety Car decision by Michael Masi.

Sky Sports reporter Ted Kravitz does not think the minor alteration to Safety Car protocol is going to appease many fans of Formula 1, and is sceptical as to whether the FIA will release their report into the closing events of the 2021 championship.

Max Verstappen snatched his maiden world title from the clutches of Sir Lewis Hamilton at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after a highly controversial Safety Car restart by race director Michael Masi when he allowed only a limited number of lapped runners to get their lap back.

Mercedes were left furious by the decision and promised to hold the motorsport governing body “accountable” for their subsequent enquiry, and Masi has since been removed from the role.

The 44-year-old has been replaced by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who will alternate in the role and receive support from former deputy race director Herbie Blash.

There will also be a virtual control room and a restriction on radio messages between the teams and race control – something that placed an abundance of unnecessary pressure on Masi in 2021.

Further, a chance to the sporting regulations changes the wording such that the allowance of “any” lapped runners to pass the Safety Car has now become “all” lapped drivers after the Australian contradicted a previous decision and left some lapped cars behind due to time constraints that threatened to see the race end under a caution.

Calls have been made for the FIA to reveal their findings of the enquiry they are set to officially wrap up on Friday, but Kravitz reiterates that they have never stated any intention to do so.

“This is the strange thing is that, in the midst of what happened in Abu Dhabi; the new incoming FIA president, Mohammed ben Sulayem said ‘we will gather together all the information to learn exactly what happened, we’ll hear from the drivers; we’ll hear from the teams involved; we’ll hear from Michael Masi the race director,’” he told Sky Sports.

“And did they ever say that we’re going to make the report public? No they didn’t. They said they’ll put the report together – does that report exist in a form that they can make public? What would they say?

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“I mean we already have all the facts in front of us. It would seem – certainly Mercedes believe – that the rules were not correctly applied, their own rules were not correctly applied.”

He affirms that the report will not suggest that any laws were contravened, as the wording of the sporting regulations means that Masi was technically within his rights to make the decision that he did, and to say that the championship was decided illegally would do significant damage to Formula 1’s integrity.

“The FIA say ‘well okay, one rule wasn’t correctly applied,’ but it covers itself with another rule where the race director can more or less do whatever he wants regarding the Safety Car so they can’t come out and say it was not correctly applied because that would influence the legitimacy of the championship and they don’t want to do that, they can’t do that,” he explained.

The alteration to the sporting regulations around Safety Car protocol will do little to allay the flurry of questions being posed by fans in the eyes of Kravitz.

“What they can do is come out and say ‘it wasn’t optimal and this is what we’re going to do to change it.’ The small change to the sporting regulations isn’t putting to bed all the questions from Abu Dhabi in any way,” added the Briton.

The new season kicks off this weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix, but a cloud continues to loom over Formula 1 in the form of December’s fallout.