Wolff says FIA can’t ‘freestyle’ the rules as he calls for action ‘not just words’

Sir Lewis Hamilton was denied his record-breaking eighth world championship in a controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has called for tangible change from the FIA following the contentious end to the 2021 championship.

Sir Lewis Hamilton was denied his eighth Formula 1 title at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix following a strange Safety Car restart by race director Michael Masi.

With a handful of laps remaining in the race, a Nicholas Latifi crash resulted in the Safety Car being deployed, and Verstappen came into the pits while Mercedes kept their driver out on track to avoid losing track position.

As a result, five lapped runners stood between the championship rivals, and due to time constraints Masi ruled that none of the lapped cars would be allowed to un-lap themselves.

READ: Ex-F1 driver warns Drive to Survive contributed to controversial season finale

Four minutes later though, the 44-year-old opted only to allow the five between the leaders to go through, leaving the rest in position.

Verstappen would then pass his rival on the final lap to claim his maiden world title in extraordinary fashion.

Mercedes protested the late decision, and upon seeing this denied, they lodged an intention to appeal.

On the morning of the FIA Prize-Giving Gala in Paris a few days later though, they rescinded this as the FIA, now led by Mohammed ben Sulayem, promised to launch a “detailed” investigation into the controversial ending to the season.

Article continues below

The Silver Arrows have since reportedly denied reports that they made a deal with the sport’s governing body to sack Masi.

Mercedes say that they will hold the FIA “accountable” for the investigation, and Wolff admits that everyone at the team feels “disillusioned” at present.

“It is very deep. Lewis, I and the whole team are disillusioned. We love this sport because it is honest,” he told Auto Motor und Sport (AMuS).

“The stopwatch never lies, but when we break the fundamental principle of fairness and the stopwatch is no longer relevant, then you doubt this sport.”

The Austrian indicated that the injustice he and Hamilton feel will not dissipate quickly.

“That all the work, blood, sweat and tears can be taken away from you. It will take a long time to digest that,” he added.

“I don’t think we’ll ever get over it, especially Lewis as a driver. We can at least try, together with the FIA, to do better in the future.”

Speaking more recently, Wolff called on the FIA to take action following the conclusion of their ongoing investigation into the season finale.

“I expect action and not just words,” the Austrian said.

“We can’t freestyle like this with the rulebook in a sport that is supposed to be sport.

Toto Wolff and Christian Horner at the FIA press conference.v1

“There has to be clarity about the rules before the start of the new season so that every driver, every team and every fan knows what is allowed and what is not.

“At the end of the day, we are providing entertainment, but no decision should break the rules for the sake of the show.”

Hamilton’s rivalry with Verstappen last year was often compared to that of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna – the pair collided in the title decider in Suzuka in both 1989 and 1990.

READ: Ex-F1 champion tells Hamilton fans to ‘put the pitchforks down’

While Wolff views the current protagonists as the very best F1 has to offer right now, he does not draw similarities to the competition between the Frenchman and Brazilian over 30 years ago.

“No, they are completely different guys,” he affirmed.

“Max is as fast as an arrow, but he doesn’t have the experience yet.

“Lewis is driving at the peak of his ability. The two of them drove in a class of their own. At times, they were 40 to 45 seconds ahead of the third-placed driver.”

It is as yet unknown as to whether Hamilton will be on the grid in 2022, and Wolff himself has been unable to offer any assurances of the Briton’s future in Formula 1.

Verstappen has previously expressed his desire for the 37-year-old to take to the track on 20 March for 2022’s curtain-raiser in Bahrain.

Follow us on Google News to never miss an F1 story