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FIA begins Abu Dhabi investigation

NEWS STORY
14/01/2022

It is understood the FIA has begun the promised investigation into the events in Abu Dhabi, with its findings due to be revealed early next month.

In the aftermath of the season finale amidst worldwide outrage at the events of those final laps and what followed, the sport's governing body promised a "detailed analysis and clarification", admitting that what had happened was "tarnishing the image" of F1.

Days later, hours into his new role as FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem promised that lessons would be learned.

"We will look into the rules and we are sure that, if any situation like this occurs in the future, we will have an instant solution for it or avoid it even," Sulayem told reporters.

"There are many areas that we can improve," he admitted. "We cannot just sit and say we are good. No, it's not enough in a sport as heavy, I would say, and as important.

"There is always a place for improvement," he continued. "We just have to look where can we improve. If you talk to me about the credibility of the FIA, yes, we lie on good structures, and good teams."

Referring to calls to sack race director, Michael Masi he said: "Why do we jump? We'll have to actually look into the matter. I definitely will not just jump to a conclusion on decisions without going back to my team. I have a meeting with the staff, and I will look into every single matter that can be improved."

The investigation, which will be headed by Peter Bayer, the FIA's secretary general of motor sport, got underway on Monday and it is anticipated that its finding will be made public early next month, in time for the meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on 3 February.

While Mercedes withdrew its intent to appeal the Abu Dhabi stewards decision, still insisting that "the way things unfolded was not right" and that it had originally protested the race result because the "safety car regulations were applied in a new way that affected the race result", in recent days it has been claimed that in a bid to placate the German team certain assurances were given.

The exact nature of these assurances is not known, but some are claiming that replacing Michael Masi was part of 'the deal'.

Meanwhile, the BBC has since claimed that Lewis Hamilton's decision on whether he races this year depends on the outcome of the FIA's investigation.

The big problem here is that the FIA is essentially investigating itself, for it is a senior FIA official at the heart of the issue.

Media headlines claiming that Masi - and Nikolas Tombazis, the governing body's head of single-seater technical matters - are to be sacked are already doing the rounds, but surely firing Masi would be an admission that the sport got it wrong thereby leaving the way open for a legal challenge from Mercedes.

At the same time, with his career effectively destroyed, it is unlikely that Masi would take things lying down, and other than his own legal challenge, might well turn to the media in order to tell his side of things, especially if, as many suspect, he was under 'external pressure' in terms of certain decisions.

In the wake of Charlie Whiting's death, Masi and Tombazis effectively shared his role with the Australian responsible for the sporting regulations and the Greek for the technical regulations. Interestingly, there is already talk that Austrian, Bayer, the man leading the Abu Dhabi investigation, would adopt these roles.

At a time Sulayem is promising to clean up the sport, one of his first actions will be to prevent in-race lobbying from teams, however if some of the recent media claims are to be believed Mercedes is still lobbying, and in terms of Hamilton's future in the sport - a future that Liberty Media and the likes of Netflix dearly needs - is effectively holding a gun to the FIA's head.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by kenji, 14/01/2022 2:01

"I find it is a major anachronism that Wolff publically supports the closure of direct comms with the race director when he himself was one of the major protagonists!! Had the final results been reversed I would think that we'd not hear peep out of him! One of the major points in this investigation should be the removal of this direct access. What major sport allows direct coercion/lobbying in real time during an event ...let alone the conclusion of a world championship?. I do not believe that the stewards are consciously biased and there is no concrete substantive evidence to support that accusation, or if there is, then I would be happy to discuss the origin of it. "

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Stitch431, 13/01/2022 14:33

"Ps. The stewards, especially at the end of the season were not unbiased. The FIA should make sure that not one steward is coming from the same country as either one of the title contenders."

Rating: Negative (-2)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

3. Posted by Stitch431, 13/01/2022 14:31

"They should also look into the fact that the ultimate decision of the entire season was the only one in favor of Max. The FIA should make sure that is not possible anymore in the future either. Even in the same race (same issue as a week before). Max was punished, Lewis not. If the rules are applied in the exact same way for every single driver including Lewis, only then the FIA has done a proper job."

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4. Posted by Jet Jockey, 13/01/2022 13:03

"Masi broke the rule... Masi changed the outcome of the race... Masi should be fired! Plain and simple."

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5. Posted by Mad Matt, 13/01/2022 9:47

"Most organisations have some procedures for investigating internal problems and at least make a pretence of the investigators being independent.

As for pressure on Michael Masi : I can't see that as an excuse, lots of us have pressure when we're trying to work and to be fair, on other occasions he's done a good job of remaining calm and unflustered.... at least from the radio messages we've heard.

The problem, from my perspective, is that he said that letting the lapped cars past is mandatory and then some months later suddenly it isn't."

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6. Posted by Defiant, 12/01/2022 22:41

"I don't believe any substantial investigation is ever carried out by a party that is directly invested in the outcome. It's similar to the police investigating itself for any misdeeds.

I agree with pap_pap in the respect of, if Masi is terminated, that he then goes to the media and anyone that will listen to blow everything wide open. Release all the details of "if" "who" "when and where" any pressure was put upon him and "why" if he knows this too.
I do hope that the teams are banned from in race lobbying. Toto and Christian are obviously guilty of this, but I'm sure they are not the only ones.
Expose all the problems, so they can be corrected or planned for in the future.
There is no point going over the ultimate outcome of the last race, but by exposing issues and planning for those occcurences, they can then begin changing the wording of the rules to ensure that the very dubious decision of only half implementing a rule cannot happen again."

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7. Posted by elsiebc, 12/01/2022 22:12

"Serious question here. What other positions in the driver's, or even the constructor's, championship could have been affected by not allowing all of the lapped cars past? Or was the Hamilton/Verstappen outcome the only one?"

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8. Posted by pap_pap_c, 12/01/2022 21:43

"It is absurd to call this an "investigation" when it is being conducted internally and not independently. Although he is no Charlie Whiting, I sincerely hope Michael Masi is not made the scapegoat for the Abu Dhabi fiasco. However, if he does lose his job I really hope he turns to the media and exposes what so many believe to be true: that Liberty Media orchestrated the finish by ordering him to let the lapped cars between Lewis and Max pass the safety car."

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