The FIA promised a “detailed analysis” as the outrage over the way the 2021 title had been decided continued to disrupt the build-up to a new season. Max Verstappen beat Hamilton with a last-lap overtake, but almost certainly would not have been able to do so without the decisions made in the moment by race director Michael Masi.
Last month, the body’s new president Mohammed bin Sulayem revealed some changes, including the removal of Masi as race director. That role will now be shared by two people on alternating weekends, while a VAR-style system has also been introduced.
The FIA waited until the day before the Bahrain Grand Prix to release its full report, in which it promised to provide “clarity” to teams and fans. In the document, it was claimed that Masi had been “acting in good faith”, but lay the blame at his door by saying “human error” was responsible for the outcome of the race in Abu Dhabi.
The report also gave a definitive statement, if one was needed, that there is no chance of the result being overturned and that, by extension, Verstappen’s maiden world title is safe. It described the result of the race as “valid” and “final” adding that it “cannot now be changed”.
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No apology was offered to Hamilton or Mercedes within the report for that error. The Briton, who said on Saturday that he had not yet read the report and that he would wait before doing so, had little reaction when told that no expression of sorrow had been extended to him within its pages.
“Look, I wasn’t expecting an apology and it is not something I have focused on,” he told Sky Sports. “We know that is the way it is, and that was probably not going to happen. But at least there is that transparency, and it has been called a human error and that is a positive step. We cannot go back unfortunately and change the past so I just look at what I can do now.”
When he was asked about the report, Mercedes chief Toto Wolff was also keen to look ahead rather than dwell on the memories of that painful race. For him, the admission that Masi had made a mistake was enough.
“You can read it either way, but, for us, there are the words that say ‘human error’ and the acknowledgement of that is very important and now we close the chapter,” he said. “I have not been thinking about Abu Dhabi since our car was not competitive for this year.
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“We need to see a step change. I’m happy that there is more transparency. Dwelling about Abu Dhabi doesn’t make my life any easier at all. The trophy is in somebody else’s cabinet and the chapter is closed. I think the FIA will have learned how things should not be handled.”
Among the other changes made by the FIA for this season was the removal of the system which allowed team bosses to contact the race director directly. Such communications were heavily criticised after both Wolff and Red Bull chief Christian Horner were heard speaking to Masi as he made his decisions.
Niels Wittich took charge of the race in Bahrain, which did not present him with any controversial decisions to make. Eduardo Freitas will hope the same is true for the races for which he will be in the role, while both can rely on the experience and wisdom of Herbie Blash as an adviser should they need to.
The FIA said removing direct radio lines will “protect the race director from any pressure” and ensure decisions can be made “peacefully”. In addition, new software has been introduced which automatically identifies which cars can unlap themselves during safety car conditions.