F1 championship is "tarnished" by Abu Dhabi safety car controversy, admits FIA


Teams and drivers will be consulted over the Abu Dhabi safety car incident, as the FIA considers regulation changes ahead of the 2022 F1 season

Safety car at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The season-tainting moment or the tide turning one final time?

Grand Prix Photo

Motor racing’s governing body has admitted that the final laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have tarnished this year’s championship and Max Verstappen’s first Formula 1 title.

But the FIA has suggested that a “misunderstanding” from teams, drivers and fans is responsible for the controversy.

It has now announced a review of the incident and consultation with drivers and teams, with any changes to regulations set to be made before the start of next season.

The speeded up safety car restart in Abu Dhabi enabled one final lap of racing and ensured that the grand prix didn’t finish as a slow-speed procession behind the safety car. It also handed Verstappen the advantage in a race that had previously been dominated by Lewis Hamilton.

Having had the ability to change tyres with minimal risk of losing position — unlike Hamilton — the Dutchman took the win and his first championship, leaving Mercedes aggrieved: the team unsuccessfully protested the result after the race and then lodged their intention to appeal the decision, arguing that Hamilton should be the champion.

With the prospect of an appeal hanging over tomorrow evening’s FIA prize-giving ceremony, where Verstappen is due to receive the world championship trophy, plus a continuing storm of social media protest, the governing body announced its response at today’s meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, made up of racing officials.

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Teams and drivers will be consulted over the safety car procedure which, in Abu Dhabi, deviated from F1’s sporting regulations when only some lapped cars were allowed to unlap themselves before the restart, and when the safety car was then immediately called into the pits rather than circulating for another lap.

“The circumstances surrounding the use of the safety car 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, 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,” the FIA said in a statement.

“The FIA President proposed to the World Motor Sport Council that a detailed analysis and clarification exercise for the future with all relevant parties will now take place.

“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.

“The FIA will therefore do its utmost to have this in motion… so that any identified meaningful feedback and conclusions be made before the beginning of the 2022 season.”

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