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Abu Dhabi report shows FIA hiding behind scapegoat Masi

Abu Dhabi report shows FIA hiding behind scapegoat Masi

Abu Dhabi report shows FIA hiding behind scapegoat Masi

Abu Dhabi report shows FIA hiding behind scapegoat Masi

The FIA report covering the events of last year's Abu Dhabi season finale was released last Saturday [March 19] and whilst it contained nothing particularly groundbreaking, it did leave some confusion.

The new F1 season may now be underway but with the FIA report being released shortly before qualifying got underway in Bahrain, there has been little time to fully digest its contents with Lewis Hamilton conceding during the weekend that he had not yet read had a chance to read the seven-page document.

The way the final safety car period in Abu Dhabi was handled came under heavy criticism as many felt the rules written in F1's sporting regulations were not followed accurately.

As we all know, Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the season to clinch his maiden world title after only lapped drivers between the two were permitted to unlap themselves.

Mercedes launched two protests over the result but both were thrown out to ensure the Red Bull driver was confirmed as champion.

The team also gave notice of its intention to appeal the race, but later backed out of this.

New FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem called for a report into the events of the race in order for the governing body to learn from the errors made.

In the first wave of changes, a new VAR-style system was announced to improve the decision-making process in race control.

Michael Masi was also removed as race director and replaced by the alternating pair of Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who will be supported by the new remote race control and the returning Herbie Blash.

This would suggest that the initial findings from the inquiry had found wrongdoing by Masi, yet the report, as far as I can tell, seemingly absolves the Australian of blame.

Whilst it was acknowledged in the report that Masi had called the safety car in a lap earlier than is mandated in the regulation, the report explained: "It was also considered that the decisions regarding the safety car at the end of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix likely took into account previous discussions that made clear the Formula 1 stakeholders [FIA, Formula 1, teams and drivers] prefer to end races under green-flag racing conditions, rather than behind a safety car, when safe to do so."

This finding, in effect, confirms that everyone involved in those previous meetings had a hand to play in Masi's decision making and that, actually, he was acting upon the wishes of the 'stakeholders'.

Addressing the radio communications from both Red Bull and Mercedes to the FIA, the report again does not point the finger of blame at Masi, describing the messages from the pit wall as, "neither necessary nor helpful" and adding that the comments "might seek to influence [whether directly or indirectly, or intentionally or unintentionally] the decisions made by the race director."

There was also uproar over the fact that only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen were released, yet as the FIA report states, logging lapped cars was a manual system that failed in the high-pressure situation.

That is without the ambiguity of the 'any or all' phrasing in the regulations.

These are fundamental flaws within the system and are not to be placed upon one man. If anything, the report stands to back Masi and instead highlights its own issues.

I am the first to admit that I was ashamed of our sport when the credibility of the result was seemingly compromised due to the decision-making at the end of the race, yet that is not to say this was a call for arguably the best man for the job to be removed.

As Verstappen himself suggested during pre-season testing, Masi was "thrown under the bus". I can't help but agree wholeheartedly with this message.

Masi has been a scapegoat used to appease the vitriol that ensued from the most dramatic of endings to the championship.

The additions that have been made around the race director's position since his departure are all he would have needed to take full command of the sport. Yet the FIA, unfortunately, took the easy way out.

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