Race director Michael Masi made a human error but acted in good faith when under immense pressure from both Mercedes and Red Bull during last year’s championship-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Formula One chiefs have ruled.
The FIA, Formula One’s governing body, finally published its report into last season’s controversial race on Saturday, having decided that Masi, who has since lost his job, did make an error at the end of the race.
Max Verstappen took the title from Lewis Hamilton’s grasp after Masi allowed only five drivers to un-lap themselves in the closing stages of the season finale.
The FIA described Masi’s action as a “human error” before concluding that the results of the race can no longer be changed, effectively reaffirming Red Bull’s Verstappen as the 2021 world champion.
The FIA delivered its verdict on the eve of the new campaign in Bahrain, 97 days after the contentious race.
In a statement, the FIA said: “The Race Director called the safety car back into the pit lane without it having completed an additional lap as required by the Formula One Sporting Regulations (Article 48.12).
“It was apparent from the analysis that there could be different interpretations of Article 48.12 and Article 48.13 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations, and that this likely contributed to the applied procedure.
“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 One Stakeholders (FIA, Formula One, teams and drivers) preference to end races under green flag racing conditions, rather than behind a safety car, when safe to do so.
“In combination with the objective to finish under green flag racing conditions applied throughout the 2021 season, the report finds that the race director was acting in good faith and to the best of his knowledge given the difficult circumstances, particularly acknowledging the significant time constraints for decisions to be made and the immense pressure being applied by the teams.
“The process of identifying lapped cars has up until now been a manual one and human error led to the fact that not all cars were allowed to un-lap themselves.”