Red Bull on Abu Dhabi scandal: ‘It’s really important the FIA do their investigation’

Max Verstappen won his maiden world championship in contentious fashion at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year.

Max Verstappen with his race engineer in Abu Dhabi.v1

Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley believes it is imperative that the FIA thoroughly investigate what transpired in the controversial 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi in December.

Race director Michael Masi had initially ruled that no lapped runners would be permitted to pass the Safety Car late on in the title-decider as Sir Lewis Hamilton was leading Max Verstappen, but contravened this minutes later by letting only the five between the protagonists get their lap back.

This allowed the Dutchman to pass the seven-time world champion and claim his maiden championship in dramatic and contentious fashion on the very final lap of the 2021 season.

READ: ‘Lewis cannot really complain about bad luck’ despite Abu Dhabi controversy

It left Mercedes seething, but they dropped an appeal into the championship standings once the sport’s governing body announced it would be carrying out a “detailed analysis” of the late events.

Though Red Bull were ultimately the beneficiaries of the controversial move from race control, Wheatley places emphasis on the FIA fully reviewing how decisions are reached, and that the teams respect their findings.

“It’s really important that the FIA do their investigation, and they work with the teams on the investigation, and that we should all follow whatever the outcome of their investigation is,” said Wheatley during an appearance on The Jack Threlfall Show.

“If we look broad brush at race direction, it’s a very, very difficult role that the race director and the stewards have.”

The 54-year-old would like more consistency in F1, but he admits that it is not so simple as to merely let the drivers go at it.

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“We look at that, and we talk about the consistency of the stewards’ decisions, consistency across the board, like people who watch football would like to see from referees, and it’s not always the case,” he added.

“Of course, we’d all love it to be very, very clear.

“We’ve had this great, overarching philosophy of ‘let them race’, but let them race is a philosophy. You’ve then got the black and white of the regulations, which is often very prescribed in terms of what penalty… there’s no wriggle room in it at all.

“I think these are the areas of the sport that need to come from the very top; it needs to come from the World Motor Sport Council, who need to say, ‘Here are the principles by which we’re going racing’.

“Then it’s up to the FIA and the teams to work together to ensure a consistent set of sporting regulations.”

Verstappen picked up seven penalty points last year en route to his title success, and Wheatley concedes that the imperiousness and aggression of the young Dutchman can be hard to control, but adds that this is only natural of elite-level athletes.

“I think if you look at any elite sportsman, in any sport, they raise the bar, they challenge everyone around them and they make it a very difficult job to try to police them from time to time,” he explained.

READ: Horner: ‘If Ferrari crush us in the first race, you can say we suffered’ from 2021 title battle

Further, the Briton is sanguine that the gargantuan battle between his driver and Hamilton in 2021 was the first of many.

“Max is a pure, 100 per cent racing driver – as is Lewis. What we saw last year was a titanic battle and I hope that there’s many more of those to come.”

Lewis Hamilton criticised for snubbing Max Verstappen.v1

Hamilton’s future in the sport is currently uncertain after his heart-breaking defeat at the end of last year but, for now at least, he is set to be joined at Mercedes by George Russell, who has signed from Williams to replace Alfa Romeo-bound Valtteri Bottas.

Verstappen will once again partner Sergio Perez, whose one win and five podiums last season were enough for Red Bull to retain him for 2022.

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