'Human error' led to controversial Abu Dhabi finale, Masi acted in 'good faith' – FIA

By Sports Desk March 19, 2022

Michael Masi acted in "good faith" in how he handled the controversial end of last season's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with "human error" leading to the rules surrounding lapped cars not being applied properly, the FIA has said.

Masi was last month removed as Formula One race director following a "detailed analysis" of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen dramatically beat Lewis Hamilton to the drivers' championship last season.

Verstappen overtook Hamilton on the final lap of the final race, denying his rival a record-breaking eighth title.

However, the Red Bull star was only able to stage that late recovery after Masi let the cars between the pair – running first and second but separated by a series of lapped rivals – pass a safety car and allow one lap of racing.

Verstappen, on fresher tyres, prevailed, prompting a protest from Hamilton and Mercedes.

While that bid failed, there has remained a great deal of discussion around the decision-making of Masi, who was replaced by two men in Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas.

But, in confirming the result of the race and 2021 F1 world championship as final, the FIA insisted Masi had not acted with any malice.

In a summary of the findings of its report into the race, an FIA statement read in part: "In combination with the objective to finish under green flag racing conditions applied throughout the 2021 season, the report finds that the race director was acting in good faith and to the best of his knowledge given the difficult circumstances, particularly acknowledging the significant time constraints for decisions to be made and the immense pressure being applied by the teams. 

"The results of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the FIA Formula One World Championship are valid, final and cannot now be changed. 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 FIA International Court of Appeal, but did not do so. There are no other available mechanisms in the rules for amending the race classification.

"The process of identifying lapped cars has up until now been a manual one and human error lead to the fact that not all cars were allowed to un-lap themselves.

"Due to the fact that manual interventions generally carry a higher risk of human error, software has been developed that will, from now on, automate the communication of the list of cars that must un-lap themselves. In addition, the 2022 Formula One Sporting Regulations have been recently updated to clarify that “all” and not “any” cars must be permitted to un-lap themselves.

"This process of identifying lapped cars has been reviewed as part of the recommendations previously announced by the FIA President in his statement of 17 February 2022, which also includes the creation of FIA Remote Operations Centre, the integration of a new and extended team to run trackside operations as well as a review of the interactions between teams and Race Control during track running."

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