The FIA has confirmed that structural changes will be announced in the coming days following the controversial title decider in Abu Dhabi.
An inquiry has been conducted into the race which saw Max Verstappen pip Lewis Hamilton to win his first drivers’ championship.
Race director Michael Masi has faced heavy scrutiny since the race, following the controversial order he made for cars only between the two title contenders to unlap themselves, which put Verstappen on the tail of Hamilton going into the final lap.
A meeting was held in London on Monday between the FIA and teams, which included Mercedes and Red Bull team principals Toto Wolff and Christian Horner.
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem unveiled the governing body’s findings at the meeting of the F1 commission and he is set to present an action plan in the next few days.
The FIA published in a statement after the meeting: ‘The FIA President led detailed discussions of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The fate of race director Michael Masi had been in doubt after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Masi though support from many within F1 ahead of Monday’s finding by the FIA
The race director made dramatic and controversial calls at the end of the Abu Dhabi GP that led to Max Verstappen (above) winning his first ever Formula One world championship
‘Feedback from the Commission on matters raised will be incorporated into the President’s analysis and he will publicly present news of structural changes and action plan in the coming days.’
There has been no further information as to what the FIA found in its investigation, but there have previously been reports that the governing body could look to make structural changes to race control in F1.
Structural changes could give Masi more support going forward but there is still noc certainty as to whether he will keep his job going into the new season.
With around five laps to go during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Hamilton led second place Verstappen by 12 seconds and was cruising towards a victory that would have crowned him world champion for a record eighth time.
However, Williams driver Nicholas Latifi then crashed late on around the circuit, bringing out the safety car due to the debris littered over the track.
Red Bull pitted Verstappen for new tyres, while Mercedes kept Hamilton out on his old compound, knowing that by pitting first Red Bull would do the opposite and inherit track position by keeping Verstappen out.
With plenty of debris left on the track and so few laps remaining, there was a strong likelihood the cars would run in formation under the safety car until the finish line, so pitting realistically wasn’t an option for Mercedes.
As the drivers bunched up behind the safety car, there were five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen, meaning any restart meant Verstappen would have to negotiate Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, who would let him through easily as per the rules but not in enough time to give the Dutchman a shot of passing Hamilton.
Once the safety car came out and Verstappen pitted, there were five cars including Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel (not pictured) between Hamilton and his title rival
However, only these cars were ordered by Masi to overtake the safety car to set up straight fight between Hamilton and Verstappen ahead of the final lap of the race
Mercedes and Hamilton were boosted when Masi gave the instruction that the lapped cars would not be allowed to overtake the safety car and rejoin the back of the pack before the end of the race, an action that typically takes place following a safety car period in F1.
A seething Verstappen said on the radio: ‘Yeah, of course, typical decision… I’m not surprised.’
But Red Bull, furious with the call, then contacted Masi over the radio, protesting that the cars should be allowed to overtake to set-up a one-lap sprint between the title contenders without backmarkers in the way.
‘Why aren’t we getting these lapped cars out of the way?’ team boss Christian Horner said. ‘Christian, give me a second. Okay. My big one is to get this incident clear,’ Masi replied.
The significant moment came a few moments later from Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley, who put more pressure on Masi to release the backmarkers.
Red Bull chief Christian Horner (left) was unhappy at Masi’s initial ruling, while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was left incensed by the race director’s change of mind
Hamilton (left) looked destined to win his eighth F1 title at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix until Verstappen (right) overtook him on the final lap following a series of contentious rulings
‘Those lapped cars; you don’t need to let them go right the way around and catch up with the back of the pack,’ he informed Masi. ‘You only need to let them go, and then we’ve got a motor race on our hands.’
An under pressure Masi twice acknowledged he ‘understood’, and moments later gave the order for only the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to be let go, and not the other backmarkers further behind the Dutchman as is usual under safety car conditions. In short it was an unprecedented call.
Usually the lapped cars are given a further lap to catch up with the safety car, but with just one lap left this too was ignored. The decision was made to send around the backmarkers and call in the safety car at the same time to set up a direct final lap fight between Hamilton and Verstappen.
Verstappen on his new softer tyres breezed past Hamilton during the final lap, during which point furious Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was heard shouting down the radio to Masi: ‘Michael, this isn’t right, Michael! No Michael! That was so not right!’
Hamilton himself was left scathing as Verstappen skated past, claiming on his team radio that: ‘This has been manipulated, man.’
Verstappen then went on to claim victory and the world championship.
Verstappen triumphed in Abu Dhabi to claim the world championship in dramatic fashion
Hamilton sportingly congratulates Verstappen on his title success after the race
It can be revealed that new F1 chief Mohammed Ben Sulayem met F1’s chief executive Stefano Domenicali over dinner for important talks on the topic, among other things, last week.
Domenicali, it seems, felt Masi should have been axed for the greater reputation of the sport (despite there being no implication that Masi was biased, even if his decision was questionable). Ben Sulayem seemed less certain of the need to fire Masi.
Mercedes led two appeals to the race stewards to overturn the race result. One centred on a moment when Verstappen very briefly overtook Hamilton under the safety car before the final lap shootout, which would have resulted in a penalty for the Dutchman if punished. This was swiftly thrown out by the FIA as was always likely to be the case given the minor breach.
However, Mercedes hung their hopes on the sporting regulation Article 48.12 that claimed that racing was supposed to resume the lap after backmarkers are allowed to overtake – in effect highlighting that the final lap should have been under the safety car where no overtaking is permitted.
F1’s chief executive Stefano Domenicali (left) felt Masi should have been axed, while new head of Formula One, Mohammed ben Sulayem, had addressed concerns from Mercedes
This too though was countered by race stewards who cited Article 15.3 which gave Masi ‘overriding authority’ over ‘the use of the safety car.’
Throughout the winter, Hamilton’s future has been called into question with Wolff hinting that the 37-year-old may retire given the incredible way the title was snatched from him.
Although in recent days he has ended a period of silence since the race by returning to social media and appearing to be gearing up for a new season, all may not be as it appears.
Hamilton’s preparations could be based on the outcome of the review giving a favourable outcome, and so he could still walk away if this is not the case.
That remains a highly unlikely prospect though given Mercedes would have to find a late replacement at such short notice and that Hamilton himself will now be more motivated than ever to gain that eighth title.
Hamilton took an extended period of silence across social media, fueling retirement murmurs
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