The executive summary of the analysis and clarification exercise conducted by the FIA following the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
This report has been drawn up to present to the WMSC members the conclusions arising from the analysis of the events that took place during the last five laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix counting towards the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship. The sole purpose of this report is to draw any lessons from this situation and clarity to be provided to the participants, media, and fans about the current regulations to preserve the competitive nature of our sport while ensuring the safety of the drivers and officials.
I. THE FACTS
A) On-track events
1. On 12 December 2021, on Lap 53/58 of the race of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix held at the Yas Marina circuit in the United Arab Emirates (the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix), the last Competition counting towards the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship, Nicholas Latifi (Williams Racing) crashed into the barrier at the exit of Turn 14 at 18:21:37 local time. Marshals were required to remove the car and debris from the track. At this point, the racing order was as follows: #1. Lewis Hamilton (HAM), Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team (Mercedes); #2. Max Verstappen (VER), Red Bull Racing Honda (Red Bull) and #3. Sergio Perez, Red Bull. Marshals immediately displayed double-waved yellow flags in that sector.
2. At the time of the crash, both HAM and VER were driving on hard compound tyres, each having undertaken one previous tyre change. At 18:21:54 local time, the Safety Car was deployed by Race Control. VER pitted for new soft compound tyres. HAM remained out on track on hard compound tyres, behind the safety car Once the field was under control behind the Safety Car, the recovery of N. Latifi's car began. The speed of the recovery was, however, slower than anticipated, due in part to the car's brakes having caught fire. On Lap 55/58, the recovery and clean-up of the incident continued.
3. At 18:27:55 local time, with the race on Lap 56/58 and the safety car still on the track as there was still significant debris being cleared by marshals on the track, the standard message "LAPPED CARS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO OVERTAKE" was published which led to confusion amongst the teams as they were preparing for the unlapping procedure. At this point, the racing order was as follows: #1. HAM; #2. VER and #3. Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow (S. Perez having retired). Several radio exchanges took place between Red Bull and Race Control (see details on Page 4).
4. At 18:31:01 local time, with the race on Lap 57/58 and the safety car still on the track, the track was clear and the message "LAPPED CARS 4 (NOR) - 14 (ALO) - 31 (OCO) - 16 (LEC) - 5 (VET) TO OVERTAKE SAFETY CAR" (i.e., only the five lapped cars between HAM and VER) was published on Timing Page 3 and official message system. Three further lapped cars remained behind VER (Car 3 (Riccardo), Car 18 (Stroll) and Car 47 (Schumacher)). Those three lapped cars were not directed to, and did not, overtake VER or others. Mercedes made a remark to Race Control by radio (see details on Page 4).
5. Race Control subsequently notified the teams (on Lap 57/58) as follows: "SAFETY CAR IN THIS LAP".
6. At 18:32 local time, with the race entering Lap 58 (the final lap), the messages "TRACK CLEAR" and "CLEAR IN TRACK SECTOR 18"were published. This allowed for green flag racing conditions on the final lap.
7. On Lap 58/58, VER overtook HAM at Turn 5 and took the lead in the race. At Turn 9, HAM almost touched VER while trying to overtake him, but VER stayed ahead and crossed the finish Line first. HAM crossed the finish Line second.
8. At 18:33 local time, the message "CHEQUERED FLAG" was published.
B) Protests, hearings and Stewards' decisions
9. At 19:01 local time, Mercedes filed two notices of protest pursuant to Article 17 of the 2021 Formula One Sporting Regulations (F1 Sporting Regulations) and Articles 13.1 to 13.5 of the 2021 International Sporting Code (Code). The first protest alleged a breach of Article 48.8 of the F1 Sporting Regulations on the basis that VER overtook HAM during the safety car period. The second protest alleged that there had been a breach of Article 48.12 of the F1 Sporting Regulations during the Race, and sought an amendment to the Race Classification as a result (the Protest).
10. At 19:45 local time, the Team representatives of Mercedes and Red Bull were summoned by the Stewards for the following reason: "Protest by Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team against Car 33, alleged breach of Article 48.8 of the 2021 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations" (i.e. Car 33 (VER) would have overtaken Car 44 (HAM) during the Safety Car period at 18:32).
11. At 20:45 local time, the Team representatives of Mercedes and Red Bull were summoned by the Stewards for the following reason: "Protest by Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team against the classification established at the end of the Competition, alleged breach of Article 48.12 of the 2021 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations".
12. At 22:14 local time, after having heard the representatives of both F1 Teams concerned, the Stewards issued Document 57 whereby they determined that "although Car 33 did at one stage, for a very short period of time, move slightly in front of Car 44, at a time when both cars where accelerating and braking, it moved back behind Car 44 and it was not in front when the Safety Car period ended (i.e. at the line). Accordingly, the Protest is dismissed."
13. At 23:03 local time, after having heard the representatives of Mercedes and those of Red Bull (as an "interested party") and the Race Director, the Stewards issued Document 58 (the Decision) whereby they determined that "Article 15.3 allows the Race Director to control the use of the safety car, which in our determination includes its deployment and withdrawal. That although Article 48.12 may not have been applied fully, in relation to the safety car returning to the pits at the end of the following lap, Article 48.13 overrides that and once the message "Safety Car in this lap" has been displayed, it is mandatory to withdraw the safety car at the end of that lap. That notwithstanding Mercedes' request that the Stewards remediate the matter by amending the classification to reflect the positions at the end of the penultimate lap, this is a step that the Stewards believe is effectively shortening the race retrospectively, and hence not appropriate. Accordingly, the Protest is dismissed."
14. At 23:22 local time, within one hour of the publication of the Decision (see Article 15 of the International Sporting Code and Article 10.1.1 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules), Mercedes notified the Stewards in writing of its intention to appeal in respect of the Stewards' decision regarding the Article 48.12 Protest. The deadline for lodging this appeal before the FIA International Court of Appeal (ICA) was 16 December 2021, 8.22 p.m. CET.
15. Mercedes did not submit a notification of appeal by the deadline (or at any time thereafter), but rather confirmed publicly on 16 December 2021 that it was withdrawing its appeal.
II. KEY ISSUES AND FINDINGS
As confirmed by the WMSC in its statement of 15 December 2021, the purpose of the detailed analysis and clarification exercise was to identify any lessons that could be learned from the events that took place at the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP and consider how best to provide clarity to F1 participants, fans, and media regarding the Formula 1 rules and regulations going forward.
1. Multiple roles and responsibilities of the Race Director
16. The role of the Race Director is by nature demanding and high-pressured. However, a recurrent theme in the detailed analysis and clarification exercise was a concern that the number of roles and responsibilities of the Race Director that have accumulated over the years might be adding additional pressure to the role.
17. From 1997 to 2019, the role of Race Director was held by Charlie Whiting. In addition to the position of Race Director, Mr Whiting simultaneously held the positions of FIA Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter, and Single Seater Sporting Director. Following Mr Whiting's death in March 2019, Michael Masi was appointed as the new Race Director. Mr Masi had previously held the role of Deputy Race Director for F1, F2 and F3 from 2018. Mr Masi also took over Mr Whiting's roles of Safety Delegate and (from 2021) Single Seater Sporting Director.
18. Suggestions made by the F1 Commission, and those interviewed included that some of the Race Director's responsibilities should be divided and assigned to other persons to reduce the workload of the Race Director and allow them to focus on their key functions, including managing and controlling the race.
2. Radio communications between F1 teams and the Race Director
19. Radio communications between F1 teams and the Race Director were identified as another key issue during the analysis.
20. Direct radio communications between the F1 Teams and Race Control were made public from early on the 2021 Season as part of a broader media strategy. It should be noted that only part of the exchanges was made public.
21. Following the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP, there was a significant amount of media attention and public debate directed towards the communications between the Race Director and the Red Bull Racing Team Principal on the one hand, and the Race Director and the Mercedes Team Principal on the other hand, especially the conversations which took place during the final laps of the race
22. On Lap 56/58, after the message "LAPPED CARS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO OVERTAKE" was published, the conversation1 between Red Bull's Team Principal (Christian Horner) / Team Manager (Jonathan Wheatley) and Race Control (Michael Masi) was as follows:
Team Principal: Christian to Michael.
Race Director: Yes, go ahead Christian.
Team Principal: Why aren't we getting these lapped cars out of the way?
Race Director: Just give me… because Christian… just give me a second... OK, my main, big one is to get this incident clear.
Team Principal: You only need one racing lap.
Race Director: Yeah.
Team Manager: Obviously, those lapped cars, you don't need to let them go… right away round and catch up with the back of the pack.
Race Director: Understood.
Team Manager: You need to let them go….
Race Director: Understood. Just give us a second.
Team Manager: … and then we've got a motor race on our hands.
Race Director: Understood.
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