Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has declared that he is not prepared to speak to race director Michael Masi following the dramatic end to the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Masi allowed five lapped cars through, leaving the rest in position ahead of the Safety Car restart in order to allow time for the race to finish under green flag conditions.
This seemed to violate Formula 1’s regulations, and Max Verstappen used his fresh soft tyres to pass Sir Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to take his maiden world title.
Wolff fumed on the radio to the Australian, saying “Michael, this is so not right”, before immediately protesting Masi’s decisions after the grand prix. These were quickly rejected, prompting Mercedes to lodge an intention to appeal.
The appeal was withdrawn hours before the FIA’s Prize-Giving Gala in Paris on Thursday, but Mercedes refused to attend the event and they also opted not to send their W12 for the Constructors’ Championship photoshoot.
Asked about his future relationship with Masi, Wolff said he does not wish to speak to the 42-year-old.
“I am not interested in having a conversation with Michael Masi,” Wolff said.
“The decisions that have been taken in the last four minutes of this race have dropped Lewis Hamilton from a deserved world championship. His driving, particularly in the last four races, was faultless.
“He had a commanding lead on Sunday in Abu Dhabi from the get-go.”
Wolff said that Hamilton’s performance in the season finale was worthy of the title, and called the late turn of events “unacceptable”.
“He won the start and he never gave the lead away again. Robbing him in the last lap of the race is unacceptable. That is why, from a personal standpoint, from a professional standpoint I cannot… my values and my sense of integrity just isn’t compatible with the decisions that have been made on Sunday.
“So it is up to the FIA to decide going forward how these decisions, how these situations, can be avoided.”
Wolff affirmed that his frustrations lay only with Masi, congratulating Verstappen and Red Bull on a deserved championship victory.
“I would have been totally OK with Max and Red Bull winning the championship on Sunday, and this situation is nothing to do with Max, he is a worthy champion. His driving is exceptional and Red Bull are fierce competitors.
“I have the greatest respect for the people working there, so this has nothing to do with them.”
Wolff then stated that he would like to be able to move on, but feels so wronged by last weekend’s finale that he simply cannot.
“I would love to sit here and avoid all these discussions and the damage that has been done to the sport, by just integrity and sporting and fair decision making on Sunday.
“So the FIA needs to decide how they are going forward. We had a good dialogue with the FIA over the last few days and the commission that has been set in place.”
The FIA has launched an investigation into how the final lap drama came to happen, and the Austrian is hopeful that this will help the sport to learn from the farce.
“I have trust and faith that we will formulate, together with all of our competitors and the drivers of the other teams, the right decisions and actions to avoid such a scenario in the future.
“I expect the commission to not only come up with words but with actions, and we will hold them accountable for the actions.”
Wolff added that believes F1 became a spectacle rather than a sport in Abu Dhabi:
“We cannot continue in a sport that is meant to be sport followed by entertainment, not the other way around, and we are held ransom by ad hoc decisions in every field, in technical and sporting.
“So therefore there needs to be clear measures in place before the start of the season, so every driver, every team and the fans understand what it is on and what is not on.”
Wolff, who took over as team principal of the Silver Arrows in 2014, finds it impossible to keep key decisions and changes to F1 under wraps as was easy to accomplish before.
“I think in a day and age of transparency such decisions cannot be made any more in backroom deals. And why I am optimistic is that most stakeholders in the sport will share my frustration on the decisions that have been made all throughout the year.”
He went on to say that the criticisms of the FIA will apply the necessary pressure to bring about tangible changes to the way the sporting regulations are applied.
“Everyone who is a racer, you guys, us, knows what happened. So nevertheless I have confidence because we will all be pulling on the same rope and in same direction.
“The teams, and I have had feedback from the teams and from the drivers and I have assurances from [the FIA’s] Peter Bayer and [F1 CEO] Stefano [Domenicali] that in the next weeks and months we will close the gaps that have opened up more and more over the last few years.”