Three months after the controversial Formula 1 season finale in Abu Dhabi, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile has presented its report on the race’s conclusion to the World Motor Sport Council and publicly published the document on its website for anyone to read.
The FIA’s summary of the seven-page report stated Race Director Michael Masi “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 summary also states, “The process of identifying lapped cars has up until now been a manual one and human error lead to the fact that not all cars were allowed to un-lap themselves.” Neither sentence can be found within the actual report.
The first section of the report proper begins with a straightforward moment-by-moment breakdown of what occurred just prior to, during and after the final safety car period of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Though, most readers likely went to the second section, which lists the findings of the investigation and the final section with the report’s recommended changes.
If you read the report, you probably noticed that the third and final section was listed with the roman numeral “IV.” It was probably a human error made in good faith.
The findings aren’t wholly unexpected with many points repeated from earlier statements by the FIA. The findings focused on four key areas, but the first is the most crucial. The report feels that the numerous responsibilities held by the Race Director added unnecessary pressure. It mentions the several roles that Charlie Whiting accrued into the position of F1 Race Director over 22 years. At the time of Whiting’s sudden death in 2019, he was also the FIA Safety Delegate, F1’s Permanent Race Starter and the FIA Single Seater Sporting Director.
In response, the FIA aimed to remove these responsibilities from the Race Director, so their focus is solely on their primary role of managing and controlling F1 sessions. Along with assigning roles to different people, the FIA created a remote Virtual Race Control Room to assist race direction.
The report also mentions that “the reduction of the duration of consultancy agreements from 3 years to 1 year, often resulting in higher staff turnover and so reduced familiarity with the rules.” Implying when Michael Masi was suddenly appointed Race Director, the staff meant to assist him likely lacked a thorough knowledge of the regulations.
The FIA has acknowledged systemic issues and drastically transformed how it will officiate Formula 1. Hopefully, it will prevent another championship-deciding controversy and help race officiating be far more consistent.