- FIA issued have a new rule on what role lapped cars play in the safety car period
- It is meant to avoid what happened at the last race of the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi
- Then race director Michael Masi made a wrong judgment call on lapped cars that handed Max Verstappen a controversial win
A Formula One (F1) returns for a new season at the Bahrain Grand Prix (GP), FIA bosses have a new rule on overtaking lapped cars, and safety cars.
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are likely to be very happy about the news. They missed out on the 2021 title in a controversial way at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when race director Michael Masi controversially handled lapped cars.
HOW DID LAPPED CARS DENY LEWIS HAMILTON VICTORY LAST SEASON?
A few laps before the race was over, Nicholas Latifi had a crash prompting the deployment of a safety car that ended up bunching up all cars.
So, Masi who was the race director told the cars that were a lap behind the others that they couldn’t overtake.
People who were racing behind a safety car didn’t really show where they were in the race. When the yellow flags first flew, there were five cars between race leader Hamilton and second-placed Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
It later turned out that Masi made a mistake. He told the five drivers who were behind the crashed car to move past the safety car.
Two cars behind Verstappen and one back in the pack were not allowed to overtake each other. They were instead forced to stay in their places.
Masi then started the race again for the last lap, even though the cars that had been lapped were still where they were.
Two cars behind Verstappen and one back in the pack were not allowed to overtake each other.
They were instead forced to stay in their spots. Masi then restarted the race for the last lap, even though the cars that had been lapped were still where they were when he started.
Masi’s error in judgment as his decision made Verstappen reduce the gap on Hamilton after Masi instructed the lapped cars to let go of each other.
The Red Bull driver passed Hamilton on the final lap after switching to fresh tyres.
Mercedes was angered by the move which led to widespread condemnation by fans, triggering an investigation by FIA.
WAS MICHAEL MASI WRONG IN HIS DECISION ON LAPPED CARS IN ABU DHABI?
Many people believe that Masi broke the rules and allowed the vehicles to pass because he caved in to pressure from Horner and sports director Jonathan Wheatley.
Masi and Wheatley are heard and seen discussing Red Bull’s demands. This indicates that the race director is responding to Red Bull’s requests in some way.
According to reports, Wheatley provides Masi advice about avoiding being passed by slower-moving vehicles, as Red Bull is desperate for a last-lap battle.
It is after Masi has seen Wheatley’s communication that he chooses to tell the five lapped vehicles to avoid one another.
An inquiry from Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff led to Masi repeating what Wheatley had said to him in the prior message.
In the video, Wheatley is heard telling Masi, “Those lapped cars; you don’t need to let them go right the way around and catch up with the back of the pack. You only need to let them go, and then we’ve got a motor race on our hands.”
Masi responds by saying “understood” and gives an order for the cars to be removed.
When Wolff protests this decision, Masi counters him saying “’Toto, it’s called a motor race, OK?”
The video received a lot of attention on social media, but it’s not a new concept.
WHAT DOES THE NEW RULE ON LAPPED CARS SAY?
A new rule has been put in place to make sure there won’t be any more chaotic scenes like this in the future.
According to Express UK, the new rule states that any lapped cars must be able to pass the lead car and the safety car, and not just some of them.
This rule was informed by Masi’s decision that denied Hamilton victory in the last Grand Prix of the season.
FIA president Mohammed bin Sulayem removed Masi as race director and gave him another role in F1.
FIA also spread the race director position to two people. Charlie Whiting who worked with Masi will help out.
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