Ben Sulayem on FIA’s Abu Dhabi report and Michael Masi’s NDA

© Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem says maybe the FIA’s report on the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix “was not enough”, but it was “a good attempt of the transparency”.

At the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton lost the title fight to Max Verstappen, after race director Michael Masi disregarded the rules that govern the use of the safety car.

These events prompted many fans, observers, and representatives of the media to question the legitimacy of the result, and Formula 1 overall.

In the aftermath of the controversy, the FIA launched an investigation into what had happened, removed Masi from the role of race director, and ultimately came out with a report.

However, many still felt that the report, while acknowledging that Masi made “a human error”, was not enough. The distrust was further fuelled by reports that the FIA had made Masi sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

Ahead of the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who inherited the role from Jean Todt in the immediate aftermath of Abu Dhabi, was asked if he thinks the FIA should have done a better job with the Abu Dhabi report and its transparency.

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“I see your point,” Ben Sulayem said.

“But then if you look at the report that we did, with the NDA, that was transparent.

“I inherited something. And I will say no blame game. But when I got it, I’m just learning more about the transparency. I had to make a change in my management.

“So there have been some changes. There has been changes of the Secretary General of Sport, there have been changes in a lot of issues.

“And now we are again doing some changes because we are evolving.”

Ben Sulayem further explains how the FIA has been improving when it comes to transparency, and points to how the organization dealt with an issue when a crane was sent out onto the wet track at this year’s Japanese Grand Prix.

“I see your point in saying, at that time, maybe the report was not enough. But the transparency, that was a good attempt of the transparency.

“Now, if you see every time we have an issue: transparency. Go to maybe Japan with the issue that we had.

“We did a thorough report, and then it was on the FIA website before the next race to make sure that we have nothing hanging from there, and that’s after consultation.”

Asked if the thinks the FIA had made the right decision by removing Masi, and appointing two alternating race directors, Ben Sulayem said:

“We are on a learning curve. First of all, Michael, I am still in touch with him. Michael has a lot of experience, but maybe I would say, in F1, if you are to do your work, you have also to keep away from a lot of media, because it can honestly get into your mind.

“But the process now that we have for the refereeing, and also for the race directors, is going ahead. And I would say that we cannot rely on just one or two. What if something happens?

“This fast-growing sport, motorsport, and the fast-growing F1, we cannot run it as maybe the original formula. We have to run it as a Formula 1. Believe me. It takes time.

“But I do trust the current ongoing team that we have with the race directors, and also with the stewarding,” the FIA president concluded.

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