FIA gives timeline for Abu Dhabi Safety Car investigation

Race start at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The FIA has provided a timeline for how the investigation into the controversial finish to the 2021 Formula 1 season will proceed.

The world drivers’ championship was essentially clinched by Max Verstappen when he passed then-race leader and title rival Lewis Hamilton in a one-lap dash to the chequered flag at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after a late Safety Car period.

Race Control had initially advised that the lapped cars would not be cleared during the yellow flag period, only to then decide that those between the top two in the race indeed would be, giving Verstappen a clear shot at Hamilton.

That triggered widespread debate about race director Michael Masi’s application of the sporting regulations, while Hamilton’s Mercedes team lodged an ultimately unsuccessful protest.

Mercedes followed up with an intent to appeal, which it withdrew following the announcement that the FIA will investigate the circumstances of that race and how the Safety Car period was managed.

The governing body has now issued a statement providing more detail about how that process is to unfold.

“Following the decision of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 15 December 2021, the FIA administration, under the leadership of [new president] Mohammed Ben Sulayem, has started the detailed analysis of the events of the last Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix,” read that statement.

“The FIA President launched a consultation with all F1 teams on various issues, including this one.

“On January 19, an item on the agenda of the Sporting Advisory Committee will be dedicated to the use of the Safety Car.

“The following stage will be a shared discussion with all F1 drivers.

“The outcome for the detailed analysis will be presented to the F1 Commission in February and final decisions will be announced at the World Motor Sport Council in Bahrain on 18 March.

“FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has asked Secretary General Sport and recently appointed Single-Seater Director Peter Bayer for proposals to review and optimize the organization of the FIA F1 structure for the 2022 season.”

Hamilton’s future remains a live issue with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff having raised the possibility that the Briton could quit the championship due to disillusion over how he missed out on the 2021 world drivers’ championship.

Speaking at the ongoing Dakar Rally, Ben Sulayem expressed his confidence that such a development would not come to pass.

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