Safety Car driver makes controversial comment about Michael Masi scandal

Bernd Maylander has sat behind the wheel of the Formula One safety car for over two decades, and he had a front row seat to the final moments of the 2021 season.

Formula One fans remain divided to this day over the ending of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which saw Red Bull’s Max Verstappen win his first World Championship after a controversial safety car decision. 

On the final lap, with Verstappen on fresh soft tyres and Lewis Hamilton on old hard tyres, under-pressure race director Michael Masi cleared the lapped cars between the pair, allowing a last lap shootout.

Hamilton felt like he had been hung out to dry by the decision, with the different tyres guaranteeing he couldn’t compete, while Red Bull felt it was fair to let the pair go racing to the chequered flag

Months after the end of the 2021 season, with Mercedes fans still angry at what occurred, Masi left his role as Formula 1 race director, with the FIA saying it was so he could “be closer to his family and take on new challenges.”

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Now, the man who was behind the wheel of the safety car during that infamous race has spoken up about how he saw the situation unfold.

“I talked to my co-driver Richard [Darker] about two or three laps before the accident… he was more on Verstappen’s side, and I was a bit more on Mercedes’ side. It changed during the season. I said it would be nice if someone else became champion,” Maylander told Auto Motor und Sport.

“[In Abu Dhabi], it was a done deal for me. The championship went to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes together for the 8th time. Even if that would have broken Michael’s [Schumacher] record of seven world championship titles, well, that’s just the way it is,” the safety car driver said.

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“[Hamilton] did a great job, and everything was actually good. And then suddenly there was a bang, and I knew precisely: okay, at that location, this kind of accident, this must be a safety car phase. And then I knew, okay, now there’s another situation,” he added.

“I then hid a little bit on the side of the car…got out and went to the hospitality with my helmet on. I went through the hospitality and sat down at the back of the harbour and didn’t even see the finish,” Maylander admitted. 

“Afterwards, I took a step back and did some soul-searching. In the following days, I hoped that no journalists would call me. I didn’t switch off my mobile phone, but I didn’t answer some of the numbers because I knew, okay, good, I’ll get a question like that,” he explained.