Formula 1 has announced it will investigate the highly controversial Safety Car restart that ultimately decided the 2021 championship.
With Sir Lewis Hamilton leading Max Verstappen by a comfortable margin in the dying laps of the title-decider last weekend, a Nicholas Latifi crash prompted a late Safety Car.
In the event that the race would not be restarted, Mercedes decided not to pit Hamilton in order to maintain track position – confident there would be insufficient time to allow lapped cars through.
Race director Michael Masi initially ruled that lapped car would not be allowed by, before suddenly decreeing ahead of the final lap that only the five cars between Hamilton and Verstappen would be let past. The others, however, were left in the midst of the pack.
This allowed Verstappen to pass Hamilton on the very last lap of the race, claiming the championship and sparking ire among Mercedes and many fans.
Mercedes protested Verstappen’s Safety Car restart as well as Masi’s decisions leading up to the final lap, but they were rejected.
Mercedes later lodged an intention to appeal, before announcing that they wouldn’t be appealing the results of the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo was one of the lapped cars not allowed through, and was thus denied a chance to climb into the points.
He took to the radio after the race to say: “I’m glad I’m not part of that, whatever just happened. Seemed, uh, pretty f***** up.”
The FIA later released a statement that they intend to investigate the chain of events that led to the contentious end to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“The circumstances surrounding the use of the Safety Car following the incident of driver Nicholas Latifi, and the related communications between the FIA Race Direction team and the Formula 1 teams, have notably generated significant misunderstanding and reactions from Formula 1 teams, drivers and fans, an argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the Championship and the due celebration of the first Drivers’ World Championship title won by Max Verstappen and the eighth consecutive Constructors’ World Championship title won by Mercedes.
“This matter will be discussed and addressed with all the teams and drivers to draw any lessons from this situation and clarity to be provided to the participants, media, and fans about the current regulations to preserve the competitive nature of our sport while ensuring the safety of the drivers and officials.
“It is not only Formula 1 that may benefit from this analysis, but also more generally all the other FIA circuit championships.
“Following that presentation and an extensive discussion, the World Council has decided to unanimously support the President’s proposal.
“The FIA will therefore do its utmost to have this in motion within the Formula 1 governance and will propose to the Formula 1 Commission to give a clear mandate for study and proposal to the Sporting Advisory Committee, with the support of Formula 1 drivers, so that any identified meaningful feedback and conclusions be made before the beginning of the 2022 season.”
Verstappen will be crowned champion at tonight’s FIA Prize-Giving Gala in Paris.