In the final race of the Formula 1 season in 2021, Lewis Hamilton looked to be headed for his eighth world title after dominating almost the entire race at Yas Marina.
However, things took a complete turn when a late safety car came out on track after Nicholas Latifi lost control of his Williams and went into the wall.
On the restart, the then top flight race director, Michael Masi , did not follow the usual procedures, as he only allowed a few drivers to split, as well as restarting the race one lap earlier than stipulated in the regulations.
This allowed Max Verstappen, who pitted at the time to fit new tyres, overtake Hamilton on the last lap and take a win that gave him his first Formula 1 world title.
Mercedes protested right after the race and seemed willing to take the matter to the appeal court, before backing down “for the good of the category”.
The FIA launched a thorough investigation into what happened, and Masi was sacked.
However, this did not ease the pain of Hamilton and Mercedes fans. Its director, Toto Wolff , has also admitted that he too has a hard time forgetting what happened.
In response to a question from Motorsport.com during an exclusive interview about whether he was still thinking about what happened in Abu Dhabi , Wolff said: “I think about it every day. But I’m calm with the fact that Max won the title, because he is a fair champion”.
“The way it all played out, I have some doubts about fairness, and especially sporting fairness. That’s what drives my love for the sport. And honestly, I think that was clearly kicked that day,” he added.
Although many questions remain about what really happened on that day, especially in the wake of it being revealed that Masi signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) never to speak of it, the FIA has tried to explain the events.
However, this year the consistency of the new race control structure has also been questioned, as has the attitude of the new FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
Reflecting on the work Ben Sulayem has done so far, Wolff said there were difficulties that were unavoidable given the change they intended to make.
“I think Mohammed Ben Sulayem, by the way he is hiring and recruiting staff, shows a different direction,” he said.
“Each person has their edges. And I think the main objective is to be transparent, to create a good governing body and that is what I see happening.”
“Are we going to see hiccups along the way because Mohammed’s organization has to fit in and everyone has to find their role? Yes, sure. But I’m happy with how things are going.”
“They are a group of people with an open mind. They do not have personal opinions. For me, they are transparent, sincere and have total integrity,” concluded the director of Mercedes .
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