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A report into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has found that “human error” was responsible for the controversial end to the 2021 season.
But it was decided that Michael Masi, who has since been deposed as FIA race director, was “acting in good faith”.
An executive summary of the report, discussed as part of an FIA World Motorsport Council meeting in Bahrain on Saturday, was published more than three months after the end to last season and less than two hours before the opening qualifying session of the 2022 season.
It also confirmed Max Verstappen’s status as Formula 1 world champion saying that “the results of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the FIA Formula 1 World Championship are valid, final and cannot now be changed”.
Both Red Bull and Mercedes, however, had their knuckles rapped for their constant dialogue with Masi both in Abu Dhabi and at other controversial points in the season.
“It was found that these communications were neither necessary nor helpful to the smooth running of the race,” said the report. “Rather, the consensus was that they add pressure to the race director at a critical time… and might seek to influence the decisions made by the race director.”
Hamilton had dominated the race in Abu Dhabi and looked to be cruising to the race win and an outright record world title when Nicholas Latifi crashed bringing out the safety car.
Masi then let the five unlapped cars between race leader Hamilton and Verstappen unlap themselves but not the rest of the unlapped cars in the field. That paved the way for Verstappen, on newer tyres, to overtake for the win and an inaugural world title.
The FIA ruled that Masi “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”.
In a bid to avoid future human error, software has now been developed to automate communication to the cars to unlap themselves, and that all not some of the cars must be unlapped before racing can resume.