FIA launches probe into F1 Abu Dhabi safety car controversy

The FIA is to probe the events surrounding the controversial safety car restart at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, amid concerns Formula 1’s image has been "tarnished" in recent days.

FIA launches probe into F1 Abu Dhabi safety car controversy

The decision by F1 race director Michael Masi to only allow select backmarkers to unlap themselves behind the safety car, and restart the race one lap before the sporting regulations dictate, has prompted a huge backlash from fans and media.

While the FIA stewards rejected a protest from Mercedes that the sporting regulations had been broken, as they insisted that other rules give Masi carte blanche to do what he wants with the safety car, the governing body has now chosen to respond to a growing wave of criticism of the sport.

Following discussions at a meeting of the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council in Paris on Wednesday, it was announced that a detailed analysis will now be undertaken to look at what happened and see what lessons can be applied for 2022.

In a statement, the FIA blamed a ‘misunderstanding’ from fans and teams about the rules for the extent of the fallout afterwards, but did at least admit that the situation was hurting F1.

“The circumstances surrounding the use of the Safety Car following the incident of driver Nicholas Latifi, and the related communications between the FIA Race Direction team and the Formula 1 teams, have notably generated significant misunderstanding and reactions from Formula 1 teams, drivers and fans,” said the statement.

“[It is] an argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the Championship and the due celebration of the first Drivers' World Championship title won by Max Verstappen and the eighth consecutive Constructors' World Championship title won by Mercedes.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

With F1 race director Michael Masi having submitted his regular report to the FIA about the grand prix, which he does after every race, the governing body will now conduct a deep analysis into the events and attempt to clarify matters going forward.

It added: “This matter will be discussed and addressed with all the teams and drivers 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.

“It is not only Formula 1 that may benefit from this analysis, but also more generally all the other FIA circuit championships.”

The FIA added that it will involve teams, plus F1’s sporting directors, to make sure that things are improved ahead of the 2022 campaign.

It added: “The FIA will therefore do its utmost to have this in motion within the Formula 1 governance and will propose to the Formula 1 Commission to give a clear mandate for study and proposal to the Sporting Advisory Committee, with the support of Formula 1 drivers, so that any identified meaningful feedback and conclusions be made before the beginning of the 2022 season.”

The FIA’s announcement about the safety car situation comes with Mercedes still pondering whether or not to push on with its appeal over the matter.

It has until Thursday evening to decide if it wishes to take its matter further, with the FIA also due to hold its official prize gala in Paris that evening.

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