One could say that Lewis Hamilton wasn’t the only person done in during the Abu Dhabi finale, Karun Chandhok feeling Michael Masi was “screwed over”.
A lot has been said about the 2021 season finale, a race in which whoever out of Hamilton and Max Verstappen finished ahead would win the World title.
Hamilton dominated that Sunday, 10 seconds up on his rival when the Safety Car was brought out for Nicholas Latifi’s crashed Williams.
Masi, the FIA race director, had two options at the time – the Safety Car or a red flag. He went with the Safety Car.
It was a scenario that played out in Verstappen’s favour as pitting the Safety Car one lap before the end of the grand prix, the Red Bull driver was in prime position to attack Hamilton for the lead, which he did so, taking it, the race win and the World title.
Since that Sunday Masi’s position as FIA race director is on the line, the Australian widely questioned – and lambasted – for his decision to allow only the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves.
Chandhok, however, reckons there is one small piece of information that has been lost in the controversy that could explain Masi’s decision making.
And that quite simply was that as the marshals went to clear Latifi’s car, which should have been a quick job and one that would have allowed time for all the lapped cars to unlap themselves, the Williams caught fire.
That prolonged the Safety Car period, leading to Masi’s unprecedented call for only some cars to unlap themselves.
Speaking to Express Sport, the former F1 driver explained: “I think what happened was Latifi crashed and Masi had a choice, at that point you do a Safety Car or red flag.
“He looked at the incident and thought, ‘that should be relatively quick to clear up’.
“There is a recovery vehicle right there, there is an escape road right there, it should be a quick recovery so there should be a Safety Car.
“That is fine, that is not an unusual decision to have made.
“I think where he got a bit screwed over really is that the brakes caught fire on the car as they were trying to take it off the track.
“So the marshals had to jump on and get the fire extinguisher out obviously, that dumped a load of stuff onto the track.
“That, therefore, left Michael in a position of, ‘ah I’ve committed to this part of the Safety Car, now this has happened we have got to leave the Safety Car out for longer than I originally planned’.
“He couldn’t have red-flagged it at that point, because as per the procedure of the red flag you have to do an out-lap as well as a timed lap.
“So if he had red-flagged it, we wouldn’t have had a restart.”
It remains to be seen whether Masi will continue as the FIA race director this season, the FIA have launched an investigation into the Abu Dhabi finale.
The findings of that will be released on the Friday of the season-opening Bahrain weekend.
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