F1 Race Director Made 'Human Error' in Abu Dhabi, Says FIA Investigation

As promised, the FIA has finally released the findings of the full investigation into the final laps of the 2021  Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Interestingly enough, it coincided with the first F1 of 2022, in case anyone was hoping we could move on from this. In the seven-page document, which provides a timeline of events and transcripts of exchanges between race control and teams, it concludes that a mistake was made by Race Director Michael Masi but that there should be no change to the championship outcome. 

The report breaks down what happened, from the moment Nicholas Latifi crashed to the checkered flag and then through the stewards’ wrangling that ensued afterward, as well as a detailed account of messages Christian Horner and Toto Wolff exchanged with Masi. A statement published by the FIA summarising the report admits that Masi made a “human error” but that he acted in “good faith,” even though neither of these phrases appears in the report itself.

The most damning bit of the report is the acknowledgment that both the job of race director was effectively impossible to do, and that Horner and Wolff being able to harass him under the safety car was a particularly bad idea.

“The consensus of those involved in the detailed analysis and clarification exercise was that the respective communications to the Race Director by the Red Bull Racing and Mercedes TeamPrincipals during the final laps of the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP had a negative impact on the smooth running of the final laps because they were distracting when the Race Director needed to focus on making difficult and time‐pressured decisions,” it reads.

Former F1 Race Director Michael Masi.

Regardless of this, Max Verstappen is irrevocably the 2021 F1 world champion. “The results of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the FIA Formula One World Championship are valid, final and cannot now be changed,” states the report. “In accordance with the rules, Mercedes made a protest to the stewards after the race, seeking to change the race classification. The stewards dismissed the protest and Mercedes then had an opportunity to appeal that decision to the FIAInternational Court of Appeal but did not do so. There are no other available mechanisms in the rules for amending the race classification. “

Some of the report’s conclusions and recommendations are what we already know: the race director’s role has been split and Masi is no longer the man for the job. Then, there will be no communications between team principals and the race director during races, the rules around the safety car restart will be clarified from “any” lapped cars to “all,” and there will be a new system in place that includes a Virtual Race Control option to replay and analyze events live and an automatic system for detecting lapped cars.

“The process of identifying the lapped cars used to be a manual process,” says the report. “For 2022 season a software has been developed that will automate the communication of the list of cars that must unlap themselves.”

So not only do all lapped cars have to unlap themselves before a restart but hopefully which cars that applies to will not be up for any kind of debate. 

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