FIA says Abu Dhabi fallout 'tarnishing image of F1 Championship'

By Sports Desk December 15, 2021

The FIA says the fallout from the controversial ending to Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is "tarnishing the image of the Championship" and will subsequently conduct an analysis and clarification exercise.

Max Verstappen was crowned Formula 1 world champion after a stunning final-lap overtake of title rival Lewis Hamilton – the pair were level on points heading into the season-ending GP.

Verstappen had trailed defending F1 champion Hamilton by more than 10 seconds with 10 laps remaining, but was offered an avenue to victory following the lap-53 deployment of the Safety Car after Nicholas Latifi's crash.

The Dutchman overtook Hamilton on the final lap after being permitted to move past five lapped cars between them to sit on his rival's tail with fresher tyres, having pitted before the safety car moved aside. It caused confusion and protestations from Hamilton's team Mercedes. Both official protests were dismissed by stewards.

In a statement issued after a planned meeting of its World Motor Sport Council on Wednesday, the FIA said Verstappen's success was being overshadowed by the "argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the Championship".

It also stated that outgoing FIA president Jean Todt wanted further discussion to provide clarity for teams and drivers before the 2022 season.

"The FIA's primary responsibility at any event is to ensure the safety of everyone involved and the integrity of the sport," read a statement.

"The circumstances surrounding the use of the Safety Car following the incident of driver Nicholas Latifi, and the related communications between the FIA Race Direction team and the Formula 1 teams, have notably generated significant misunderstanding and reactions from Formula 1 teams, drivers and fans, an argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the Championship and the due celebration of the first Drivers' World Championship title won by Max Verstappen and the eighth consecutive Constructors' World Championship title won by Mercedes.

"Following the presentation of a report regarding the sequence of events that took place following the incident on Lap 53 of the Grand Prix and in a constant drive for improvement, the FIA President proposed to the World Motor Sport Council that a detailed analysis and clarification exercise for the future with all relevant parties will now take place.

"This matter will be discussed and addressed with all the teams and drivers to draw any lessons from this situation and clarity to be provided to the participants, media, and fans about the current regulations to preserve the competitive nature of our sport while ensuring the safety of the drivers and officials. It is not only Formula 1 that may benefit from this analysis, but also more generally all the other FIA circuit championships.

"Following that presentation and an extensive discussion, the World Council has decided to unanimously support the President’s proposal."

Mercedes have since lodged a notice of an intention to appeal and must notify the FIA by Thursday if they plan to take it on to the International Court of Appeal.

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    The seven-time world champion was speaking for the first time at length since his shock blockbuster move to the Italian giants in 2025 was confirmed earlier this month.

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    But it is Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team who head into next Saturday’s curtain raiser, also in the Gulf kingdom, as the favourites, despite the ongoing investigation into their embattled team principal Christian Horner. Horner continues to deny the claims against him.

    Hamilton, who joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, signed a two-year contract extension with the Silver Arrows only last August.

    But over the winter he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early to make the switch.

    “Obviously in the summer we signed and at that time I saw my future with Mercedes,” Hamilton explained. “But an opportunity came up in the new year and I decided to take it.

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    “But ultimately I am writing my story and I felt like it was time to start a new chapter.”

    Mercedes have carried Hamilton to six of his record-equalling seven titles.

    But last year marked a second straight season without a victory for the British driver – a losing streak which now stands at 45 races – and Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years.

    Ferrari have not won a drivers’ championship since Kimi Raikkonen triumphed for them in 2007.

    And two decades will have passed since Michael Schumacher took his fifth consecutive title for the team in 2004 when Hamilton links up with Ferrari at the start of next year.

    “All of us sit in our garages and you see the screen pop up, you see a driver in the red cockpit and you wonder what it will be like to be surrounded by the red,” added Hamilton.

    “You go to the Italian Grand Prix and you see the sea of red of Ferrari fans and you can only stand in awe of that.

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    Hamilton said the biggest transfer in F1 history would not have happened if Fred Vasseur – the Frenchman who played a prominent role in his formative career – had not been appointed as Ferrari team principal last year.

    Hamilton continued: “I have got a great relationship with Fred. I raced for him in Formula Three and we had amazing success in Formula Three and GP2 and that is where the foundation of our relationship started.

    “We always remained in touch. I thought he was going to be an amazing team manager at some stage and progress to Formula One. It was really cool to see him at Alfa Romeo and when he got the job at Ferrari I was just so happy for him. The stars aligned and it would not have happened without him.”

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    “Our car is more enjoyable to drive and it is an improvement,” said Hamilton. “But we still have some time to find. Red Bull are out in the distance.”

    Ominously, Verstappen, bidding to win his fourth straight title, said: “For sure, the car is better than it was last year.”

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