Michael Masi’s old comments undermine his Abu Dhabi decisions

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Back in 2020 FIA Race Director Michael Masi explained the Safety Car rules that he himself blatantly disregarded in the final laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Michael Masi is under a lot of scrutiny since he made questionable Safety Car decisions that basically gifted Max Verstappen the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix victory and the 2021 title.

But let’s start at the beginning. On Sunday Lewis Hamilton controlled most of the race, with Max Verstappen unable to do anything to stop him.

This went on until a Safety Car was deployed due to Nicholas Latifi’s crash. Under the Safety Car Red Bull had nothing to lose so they decided to gamble and put Max Verstappen on fresh soft tyres, knowing that the Safety Car will eventually bunch the field up.

Mercedes on the other hand decided to keep Lewis on old worn down hard tyres that he had for most of the race, because otherwise he would have lost track position to Verstappen, who in this case definitely wouldn’t pit.

The German team was under the assumptions that the FIA will follow usual Safety Car rules and procedures that require lapped cars to unlap themselves once the track has been cleared of any danger, before the race can be restarted on the next lap.

Considering how many laps were remaining in the race it was impossible for the whole procedure to finalise before the restart, meaning that the race would be finished under a Safety Car.

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Well, Masi apparently didn’t want the race to end in this way, so at first he said the race will resume for one final lap, but the backmakers would not be able to unlap themselves.

This was not good for Lewis, but since there were six backmarkers between him and Max, he had a good chance to finish this single lap ahead despite being on much older tyres.

However, under the pressure from Red Bull Masi decided to allow cars to unlap themselves, putting Max right behind Lewis for the restart on fresh tyres. To make matters worse, since there was no way for all cars to unlap themselves in time for the race to restart, only those between Lewis and Max moved out of the way.

The rest was predictable, Max on fresh soft tyres easily passed Lewis on old worn down hard tyres and proceeded to win the race and the world championship.

Mercedes obviously protested the decision immediately after the race, because Safety Car rules and protocols were completely disregarded, but the FIA decided to dismiss the complaint.

They gave a shaky explanation that the race director has the authority to override certain rules if deems it to be necessary.

Well Masi’s comments after the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix have now been unearthed and they show that he has defended the reasons why the Safety Car was on the track longer than some deemed necessary, by citing the same rules he blatantly disregarded in Abu Dhabi.

”There’s a requirement in the sporting regulations to wave all the lapped cars past,” Masi told Motorsport Week at the time.

“From that point, it was position six onwards that were still running [on the lead lap], so between 10 or 11 cars had to unlap themselves.

“Therefore the safety car period was a bit longer than what we would have normally expected.”

Had he followed the same FIA rules and protocols that he championed just a year prior, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix would have finished under the Safety Car and Lewis Hamilton would have been crowned champion.

Mercedes has announced their intention to appeal the FIA’s decision, but is yet to confirm if they will go through with the formal appeal.

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