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This is what the FIA can adjust to the rules after the investigation

This is what the FIA can adjust to the rules after the investigation

14 January - 09:08


The FIA has launched an investigation into the events at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and will present the outcome prior to the 2022 Formula One season. What can/should the FIA change ahead of the new season?

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Although it is now January and the teams are busy preparing for the new season, there is another issue in the background. Indeed, the last GP of the previous season caused a stir. Not necessarily because of the eventual winner Max Verstappen, but because of the actions of the race committee.

Toto Wolff and his team took the FIA to task over this. Michael Masi had independently "overridden" the rules in order to still be able to race on the last lap, which had major consequences for the world championship. If Masi had left all the lapped cars in front and only brought in the safety car one lap later (as the rules state), Verstappen would not have been able to attack.

On the other hand, you can also argue that Masi could have let the lapped cars all pass one lap earlier. In that case there would have been a lap to let them return to their position, before the race could be restarted on the last lap. Even then Lewis Hamilton would have been unlucky, but there were no rules for Mercedes to complain about.

Protest from Mercedes

Indeed, the German team did so after the race and even threatened to protest. Despite saying themselves that they could have won the case, they decided to withdraw their protest. Mercedes spoke at length with the FIA and in doing so received a promise that the last race of the season would be investigated to avoid the same scenario in the future. Hamilton is waiting for this result to determine his future in F1.

Whether that will be the case remains to be seen, as the FIA announced Thursday that the investigation will be presented on March 18 before the first race in Bahrain. It would be somewhat late for the seven-time world champion to decide then whether to compete in the world championship.

What will the FIA do?

Then the most important question: what can the FIA change with this investigation? The outcome of the championship will not be changed, but the FIA is going to look at "several issues," it announced in its press release yesterday. The main issue, which was also specifically mentioned, is the use of the safety car.

It is up to the new Single-Seater front-runner, Peter Bayer, to provide the new FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, with a new plan to improve the sport. When you look at the safety car, there are a number of things that may be about to change.

For example, the rules that lapped cars get a lap back and the rest of the field has to wait for that is one such rule that will come under a magnifying glass. Why can't those drivers give up places in the line up to lose less time and also have the advantage of being able to warm up their tires properly for a lap?

Finishing behind a safety car

Masi acted the way he did in Abu Dhabi because he did not want the race to end under a safety car. This could also become a rule to be fixed in the rulebook. Now one can finish behind a safety car, but if you would state that when the safety car goes in, at least one more lap has to be driven, you have solved that problem.

Another option is a red flag. Many people suggested that Masi should have waved a red flag at the crash of Nicholas Latifi. Then there would have been a five-lap sprint race, with everyone on new tires and therefore an equal chance for everyone. In my opinion this would take away the tactical game you get with a safety car, but of course it is a solution to establish that a 'safety car situation' within the last five laps of a race is always a red flag. That way you also avoid a race that ends behind the safety car and still give everyone a chance to race.

Changing personnel

Since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the tenability of Michael Masi's position has been a topic of discussion and this will also be reflected in the FIA's investigation. In my opinion, this is not the solution. Masi has too big a job and gets too little support from clear regulations. So if you want to improve the sport you have to make sure he has better resources at his disposal.

Still, the FIA already gave a signal with the appointment of Bayer. Masi, as race director, was not planning to stay in that role for long, but the timing of the change is of course striking. On the other hand, it would also only be a good thing if there was someone to check Masi.

One thing is clear. If the FIA has investigated and then comes up with a set of rules, then it should stick to them. Then there should not be another rule in the book for the race director to hide behind if he makes a different decision on his own and there should also be no room for the teams to put pressure on the race director. If the 'referee' then follows the rules consistently, the participants (and fans) have to put up with that.

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