F1 plans structural changes post-Abu Dhabi controversy

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In the coming days, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem will present the governing body’s response to the events of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after promising “structural changes” and an “action plan” in a statement on Monday.

Formula One team bosses met with Ben Sulayem in London on Monday to discuss the fallout from the race, with the issues raised in that meeting set to be incorporated into the FIA’s final response.

The final laps of the grand prix, which saw Max Verstappen crowned champion ahead of Lewis Hamilton, were among the most controversial in the sport’s history after FIA race director Michael Masi failed to follow the correct procedure for a safety car restart, thereby handing Verstappen a significant advantage on the final lap.

In December last year the FIA promised to deliver a “detailed analysis and clarification exercise” of the safety car period after admitting the backlash from fans and media was tarnishing the image of the championship.

The investigation did not begin in earnest until January this year, with the FIA planning to consult teams and drivers on future changes.

Although very few details emerged from Monday’s meeting, the FIA issued a statement saying its recommendations from the investigation would be made public soon.

“The FIA President led detailed discussions of the 2021 FIA Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix,” the statement said.

“Feedback from the Commission on matters raised will be incorporated into the President’s analysis and he will publicly present news of structural changes and action plan in the coming days.”

The stakes around the outcome of the investigation were raised last month when sources close to Lewis Hamilton suggested he was not willing to commit to another season in F1 until he had seen the results of the investigation.

Although Hamilton has yet to confirm if he will continue in F1 this year, in recent weeks he returned to social media after a two-month break, posted videos of himself training and paid visits to his Mercedes team in preparation for the new season.

One of the main questions arising from the investigation is whether Masi will continue in his role as race director this year. He stepped into the role at the 2019 Australian Grand Prix following the unexpected death of former race director Charlie Whiting.

In an interview with Voralberger Nachrichten last month, the FIA’s singer-seater director Peter Bayer, who led the FIA’s investigation into the events in Abu Dhabi, suggested that the role of race director could be split into different jobs, with the potential for Masi to be replaced.

“Michael has done a great job in many ways,” Bayer said n the interview. “We definitely don’t want to lose him.

“We told him that, but also that there is a possibility that there may be a new race director.

“I can only make proposals to the World Council, and they will definitely include Michael.”

Once the action plan has been made public by the FIA president it is set to be confirmed by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council ahead of the opening round of the F1 season on March 20 in Bahrain.

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