FIA announces 'F1 VAR' following 2021 Abu Dhabi GP controversy


A F1 video assistant referee system is set to be implemented ahead of the 2022 season the FIA has confirmed

Max Verstappen overtakes Lewis Hamilton in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The championship-deciding pass

Joe Portlock/F1 via Getty Images

Formula 1 will introduce its own version of VAR Video Assistant Referee system, alongside a completely new race direction team, following its investigation into the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The new virtual race control system to analyse key moments in grands prix is being implemented alongside a completely new race direction team. Le Mans and DTM race directors Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich will alternate in the F1 race director role, while Herbie Blash returns as permanent senior advisor.

Michael Masi will no longer be involved, and is being offered another position within racing’s governing body, the FIA, which announced the organisational changes today.

The trio will also be assisted by the virtual race control, which will be similar to the VAR system used in football. The new room will be set up in an additional FIA office outside of the circuit and use real time connections to the F1 race director to assist with the race director’s decision-making.

Teams will still be able to pose questions to the race director, though it’s promised that this will be a non-intrusive process and not broadcast, allowing tghe race director to make decisions “peacefully”. It’s a contrast to the closing stages of last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where team principals and sporting directors from Mercedes and Red Bull were haranguing Masi — a spectacle described as a “pantomime” by McLaren Racing CEO, Zak Brown.

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“To assist the race director in the decision making process, a virtual race control room will be created alike the video assistant referee VAR in football,” FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem confirmed.

“It will be positioned in one of the FIA offices as a backup outside the circuit and real time connection with the FIA F1 race director.

“It will help to apply the sporting regulations using the most modern technological tools.

“Secondly, direct radio communications during the race currently broadcast live by all TVs will be removed in order to protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully. It will be still possible to ask questions to the race director according to a well defined and non-intrusive process.”

Safety car unlapping procedures will also undergo assessment ahead of the 2022 season. Official plans are yet to be confirmed but the current rules will be re-examined by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee before being presented at the next meeting of the F1 Commission, which includes officials, team bosses and race promoters, ahead of the new season.