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FIA says Abu Dhabi fallout 'tarnishing image of F1 Championship'

By Ben Somerford

London, December 16: The FIA says the fallout from the controversial ending to Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is "tarnishing the image of the Championship" and will subsequently conduct an analysis and clarification exercise.

Max Verstappen was crowned Formula 1 world champion after a stunning final-lap overtake of title rival Lewis Hamilton – the pair were level on points heading into the season-ending GP.

Verstappen had trailed defending F1 champion Hamilton by more than 10 seconds with 10 laps remaining, but was offered an avenue to victory following the lap-53 deployment of the Safety Car after Nicholas Latifi's crash.

The Dutchman overtook Hamilton on the final lap after being permitted to move past five lapped cars between them to sit on his rival's tail with fresher tyres, having pitted before the safety car moved aside. It caused confusion and protestations from Hamilton's team Mercedes. Both official protests were dismissed by stewards.

In a statement issued after a planned meeting of its World Motor Sport Council on Wednesday, the FIA said Verstappen's success was being overshadowed by the "argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the Championship".

It also stated that outgoing FIA president Jean Todt wanted further discussion to provide clarity for teams and drivers before the 2022 season.

"The FIA's primary responsibility at any event is to ensure the safety of everyone involved and the integrity of the sport," read a statement.

"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, 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.

"Following the presentation of a report regarding the sequence of events that took place following the incident on Lap 53 of the Grand Prix and in a constant drive for improvement, 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 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.

"Following that presentation and an extensive discussion, the World Council has decided to unanimously support the President’s proposal."

Mercedes have since lodged a notice of an intention to appeal and must notify the FIA by Thursday if they plan to take it on to the International Court of Appeal.

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Story first published: Thursday, December 16, 2021, 6:20 [IST]
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