Race director Michael Masi’s handling of the Safety Car restart at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix “wasn’t fair” on Sir Lewis Hamilton.
That’s the opinion of a former Formula 1 driver, who described Masi’s handling of the situation as lacking “any level of common sense.”
Following Nicholas Latifi crashing in sector three with just a few laps of the season finale remaining, the Safety Car was deployed.
Red Bull used this as an opportunity to pit Max Verstappen for a set of soft-compound tyres, while Mercedes opted to leave Hamilton out to ensure he maintained track position.
There were five lapped cars in between the race leaders and championship protagonists, and Masi initially ruled that no lapped cars would be allowed to overtake the Safety Car, due to time constraints.
However, he later allowed the aforementioned five lapped cars to un-lap themselves, while keeping the rest in their place.
This infuriated Mercedes team principal and co-owner Toto Wolff, who quickly got on the radio to race control to describe the move as “so not right.”
As a result of this controversial decision, Verstappen was right on Hamilton’s tail for the restart and was able to overtake him on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to claim his maiden F1 crown.
Commenting on Masi’s controversial handling of the Safety Car restart, ex-Formula 1 driver Stefan Johansson noted that the controversy has created a lot of “entertainment value”, but he believes the decision to only allow some of the lapped cars to un-lap themselves made little sense.
“First, I guess it’s positive for F1 that everyone is chiming in, that there’s so much passion for either side, Lewis or Max,” he said.
“Whether it’s intentional or not, the entertainment value of this controversy has gone through the roof.
“But I think there has to be a balance somewhere because the decisions Masi made make no sense on any level.”
Continuing, Johansson said he believes the Safety Car restart wasn’t fair on Hamilton.
“His [Masi’s] decision completely ignored any level of common sense as to what would have been a fair way to handle the situation.”
Johansson added that the race should have been red flagged, as that would have been fair on both Hamilton and Verstappen while guaranteeing the 2021 season wouldn’t end under a Safety Car.
“The only way it should have been done was by doing what you’d normally do and indeed what he did in the race prior.
“As soon as they deployed the Safety Car with five laps to go, they should have red flagged the race. That’s the only way to keep it level and keep the excitement until the end.
“You would have had everyone come into the pits while they clear the track, put new tyres on and go from there like they did at the Saudi Grand Prix when Red Bull rebuilt half their car and put new tyres on.
“Had that been done you could have had a fair five-lap shootout for the championship.
“Making the decisions he did and then changing his mind completely at the very last moment absolutely handed the race on a plate to Max and Red Bull after Lewis had done a flawless race.
“He did everything he had to do to secure the championship, including making a perfect start.”
Mercedes protested the race and championship result, and after seeing their protest rejected by the FIA, they lodged an intention to appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
However, the Silver Arrows later said they wouldn’t be appealing the decision and publicly congratulated Verstappen on winning the 2021 F1 Drivers’ Championship.