A furious Toto Wolff urged race director Michael Masi to revoke his controversial call in the closing stages in Abu Dhabi.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix lived up to its billing and more, as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen went to battle in their title decider level on points.
And as the race entered its closing stages, Hamilton appeared to be on his way to a record eighth World Championship.
Verstappen had earlier stopped under a Virtual Safety Car for a new set of hard tyres, but they were not giving the Dutchman the pace he needed to whittle away the gap to Hamilton in the lead.
The situation changed completely though when Williams’ Nicholas Latifi crashed out after battling with Haas’ Mick Schumacher.
The Safety Car was deployed and Verstappen returned to the pits for a set of soft tyres, a free pit stop under SC conditions.
The issue though was that the laps were running out, and with lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen it seemed the Briton would hold on if racing resumed.
It is common under the Safety Car to move those lapped cars out of the way for when race conditions return and Masi did give that order, which meant Verstappen was then right behind Hamilton when the race resumed for one final epic lap.
However, it was only those five lapped cars between the title rivals that unlapped themselves, not all of them.
Mercedes boss Wolff pleaded over the radio: “Michael, this isn’t right.”
But it was to no avail, the race restarted with one lap to go, Verstappen made the overtake and drove on to become 2021 World Champion.
A furious and upset Wolff was straight back on the radio, demanding Masi reversed his decision, but the comeback from the race director was fierce.
Toto Wolff: "You need to reinstate the lap before, that's not right."
Michael Masi: "Toto, it's called a motor race. We went car racing."
The race director coming in hot there 🔥#F1 #AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 pic.twitter.com/AkPyWYOTAb
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) December 12, 2021
Here was the exchange in full:
Masi: “Go ahead, Toto.”
Wolff: “You need to reinstate that lap before, that’s not right.”
Masi: “Toto…it’s called a motor race, okay?”
Masi: “We went car racing.”
The unique element to this situation was the fact that only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen could overtake the Safety Car, not all of them.
And as per Article 48.12 of the sporting regulations, “any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the Safety Car”.
Mercedes, therefore, may well have a legitimate gripe and a protest is likely to be lodged.
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