McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl is certain that Formula 1 can retain its integrity following the controversial ending to last season’s championship, but insists that the FIA needs the support of the teams in order to do so.
Sir Lewis Hamilton had looked set to record the 104th win of his career and thus his record eighth championship at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix while comfortably leading title rival Max Verstappen, but a late Safety Car caused by a crash for Nicholas Latifi turned the race on its head.
Verstappen pitted for fresh tyres, leaving five lapped runners between himself and the Briton, and race director Michael Masi initially ruled that, due to the time constraints in the dying laps, no lapped cars would get their lap back.
However, following intense radio lobbying by Red Bull, the Australian permitted the five between the protagonists to go through, allowing the Dutchman to pass the Mercedes driver on the final lap to claim his maiden championship success.
Silver Arrows team principal Toto Wolff told Masi over the radio that the finish was “so not right,” but the team dropped an appeal into the results of the championship days after its conclusion and will instead hold the FIA “accountable” for a review they are now carrying out.
This is being led by new president Mohammed ben Sulayem, who is set to meet with all the teams to discuss the governing body’s initial findings and outline the next steps.
Seidl believes it is important that the teams co-operate with the FIA to make for a fairer sport.
“It’s clear that what happened in Abu Dhabi was very controversial and not good for the sport,” he told RacingNews365 after McLaren’s car launch on Friday.
“Because of the analysis still ongoing, and the discussions ongoing, I don’t want to go into too much detail judging what happened there exactly.
“It’s important now to wait for Monday [F1 Commission meeting] and, hopefully, we can close this topic with a good analysis on the FIA side and have some good steps in place in how to improve for the future.
“Going away from Abu Dhabi, if you look at last year, a lot of controversial things happened which were overall not good for the sport.
“We need to invest time and energy on the teams’ side, together with the FIA, to make sure we understand what happened during the season and see how we can help by making the regulations less complex.”
Ben Sulayem has recently sent Peter Bayer across to supervise Masi and head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis, and Bayer is keen to put in place a support system that de-pressurises the stressful role that the 44-year-old has to play on race weekends.
The McLaren boss is on board with this idea, suggesting that a collective effort from race control is more prudent than the weight of the world on one man’s shoulders.
“I think most important is the race director is given more support from the stewards to avoid these types of controversies and avoid mistakes happening by making life easier in terms of policy and the application of the rules,” he added.
Seidl reiterated that Masi is only human, but emphasised the importance of acknowledging errors and taking learnings from them.
“F1 is a human sport, and that we shouldn’t forget. I think it’s important to mention that, whatever we put in place, mistakes can happen on the teams’ side, as well as on the FIA side,” he explained.
“Mistakes can happen again and, for me, it’s very important to discuss a race mechanism where, if mistakes happen, we can raise our hands and admit them,” he said.
“[It’s important] to have a mechanism in place in order to correct the mistakes, or correct the consequences that such mistakes might have impacted.”
The FIA will conclude their investigation into the closing events of the 2021 championship on 18 March – two days before the start of the new season in Bahrain.