Formula 1: Safety car rules changed by FIA following controversial 2021 title decider

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Verstappen passed Hamilton on the final lap in Abu Dhabi to win the 2021 title after a late safety car

Formula 1 safety car rules have been changed to make it impossible to drive a race like the controversial 2021 title decider.

Masi’s actions had a direct impact on the outcome of the world championship.

The FIA ​​governing body has now made it clear that “all” cars that spin out must spin themselves out before a restart.

The change replaces last year’s wording in the rules, which stated that “all” cars in the lead between the leaders should overtake and join the back of the field before a restart after a safety car.

Masi’s decision to only allow cars between race leader Lewis Hamilton and title rival Max Verstappen one lap before a restart has been at the heart of the Abu Dhabi controversy.

This meant that not all drivers in the field were treated equally – as cars run between Verstappen and the Ferrari of third-placed Carlos Sainz, and others further down the field, were left in place.

McLaren’s Lando Norris said the highlight of the race was “made for TV” and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo added: “I’m glad I wasn’t part of it.”

Hamilton had dominated the race and was on his way to an eighth world title. But after the restart, the Mercedes driver was left exposed on old tires and overtaken by Verstappen’s Red Bull, earning the Dutchman a maiden championship.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team used this as an argument that Masi had not made an error in his procedures and that the result should stand. And the stewards also used it to fit a justification for Masi’s actions and hold the result in place after Mercedes appealed after the race.

The second rule at the heart of the Abu Dhabi controversy remained unchanged.

It is the requirement that the race must be restarted “at the end of the next lap” after the message was relayed that lapped cars can now overtake.

Masi ignored this rule and restarted the race at the end of the lap where he had only ordered a few lapped cars to pass the leaders.

If he had followed the rules as expected on this aspect, the race would not have restarted and Hamilton would have been world champion.

The rule changes are the latest in a series of moves by the FIA ​​that amount to an effective admission that Masi made mistakes in his handling of the Abu Dhabi race.

The first was the admission that the controversy was “tarnishing the image” of F1 and the decision to launch an investigation into what had happened.

After conducting the investigation, Masi was removed as race director and replaced by two new officials who will alternate in the role, Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich.

And the Race Control support structure has been strengthened, including the creation of a department similar to football’s Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and the return of F1 veteran Herbie Blash in an advisory role to directors. race.

Blash, 73, was the right-hand man of former FIA F1 boss Charlie Whiting, whose death on the eve of the 2019 season led to Masi being named race director.

A full report on the events in Abu Dhabi is expected to be released at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.

It is widely believed within F1 that Masi did not follow the rules correctly.

The closest to an explicit admission of this fact by the FIA ​​was an interview with single-seater executive director Peter Bayer.

He said that, if Mercedes had pursued their appeal, it would probably have been decided that “it’s different in the regulations, it [Masi] decided that [other] way, so we could just undo the result“.

Had the race been declared a draw, Verstappen would still have been champion as he started the event leading the championship due to the results countdown.

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