Abu Dhabi GP report says Michael Masi made mistake, but acted in ‘good faith’
SAKHIR, Bahrain — The FIA said “human error” contributed to the controversial finish of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year, but insisted former race director Michael Masi had acted in good faith throughout.
A report on the final laps of the race was presented to the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) on Saturday, which concluded that the championship result was “valid” and “can no longer be changed”.
Masi misapplied the safety car procedure at the end of the decisive match between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi. His actions, which were taken to prevent the race from finishing behind the safety car, set up a one-lap sprint finish that helped Verstappen catch and pass Hamilton on the final lap.
By rushing the restart procedure in Abu Dhabi, parts of the FIA regulations were either overlooked or ignored, including an inconsistency in communications with lapping cars to take place before the restart.
The message was only displayed to the five cars between Hamilton and Verstappen rather than all the run-in cars. It was this miscommunication that was called “human error” by the WMSC, explaining that the messages to the cars were sent manually rather than by an automated system.
However, exactly how the “error” happened and why it happened when several teams and drivers believed at the time that all lapped cars would be allowed to overtake has not been disclosed.
Masi also restarted the race a lap earlier than the rules allowed, giving Verstappen the opportunity to pass Hamilton for the lead on the final lap and claim the title.
The report pointed to team pressure via radio communications as the reason for Masi’s actions as well as a desire to comply with an informal agreement within the sport not to finish the race behind the safety car.
He added that the rules regarding the safety car restart procedure were subject to interpretation and should be clarified.
Masi has since been removed from his role as race director and the FIA has promised to provide more support for his replacements, including a video assistant referee type review system.
It also clarified its rules on safety car restarts to say that “all” unrun cars must run before a race can resume, rather than “any”.
Software confirmed by WMSC has now been developed to automate messages to cars to take place before a safety car restarts ‘due to the fact that manual interventions generally carry a higher risk of human error’ .