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Masi was wrong in the Abu Dhabi GP that decided the title

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has admitted a mistake was made in the controversial restart of last year’s Formula 1 season finale, in which Max Verstappen won the world championship.

Verstappen edged out title rival Lewis Hamilton to win the race and the world championship after a last-lap restart. But the outcome of the title fight was plunged into bitterness when it emerged that FIA Formula 1 racing director Michael Masi had not followed the rules correctly.

Ultimately, Hamilton’s Mercedes team was persuaded not to appeal the result, which meant that the world championship was not decided in court. However, the FIA ​​agreed to look into the controversial end of the season and, 97 days after the race, issued a report which concluded that mistakes had been made in the disputed restart.

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In its summary, the FIA ​​noted that Masi made two mistakes: “He called the safety car back into pit lane without it having completed an additional lap as required by the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations” and he did not allow all the lapped cars to be will rejoin the track. lead turn. Masi was replaced as FIA F1 race director before the new season started.

Horner previously described criticism of Masi as a “smokescreen” and accused Mercedes of “a concerted campaign… to discredit our achievement” in leading Verstappen to last year’s championship. However, in a new interview, he has now admitted that Masi did not follow the rules correctly.

Comment: F1 championship final call tainted, but not its well-deserved new champion

“He made a mistake in that he didn’t allow all the folded cars to unbuckle themselves,” Horner told The Cambridge Union. “I think there were three cars that stayed to the back of the field and couldn’t [un-] turn themselves. That was the only mistake he made.”

Horner did not address Masi’s error in ordering the Safety Car to pit one lap earlier than specified in the rules.

“So I thought it was tremendously hard for him to be hanged, particularly in public, and then the trolling he got and the abuse he got online without really supporting the federation behind it,” Horner continued.

“There were a lot of decisions he made last year that we felt were going against us, whether it was yellow flags in qualifying in Qatar or the Silverstone incident with Lewis. But I felt sorry for him because there should have been more support after that championship because he was in an incredibly difficult position.”

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The controversy surrounding the end of last year has detracted from the quality of Verstappen’s performance last year, Horner said.

(L to R) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022
Feature: The omission in the FIA’s Abu Dhabi report that may cause problems for the future

“Obviously, there has been a lot of talk about Abu Dhabi. It was a shame that Max’s achievements over the last year were diluted, if anything, by what happened in Abu Dhabi.”

Horner suspects coverage of the race would have been different if the last lap controversy had worked in favor of Hamilton rather than Verstappen.

“I think if it hadn’t gone through the entire appeal process and obviously the noise that was made after the event, it would have been much less of an issue if it had happened the other way around,” he said.

“Sometimes I wonder how that would have been conveyed if Lewis Hamilton had won it on the last lap. Would he have been the hero instead of the villain?

Despite acknowledging Masi’s mishandling of the race, Horner stressed that the result should not detract from Verstappen’s championship win.

“The reality is that a championship is won in a season, not in a single race. And I think the way Max drove last year, sometimes it’s not the best car, but some of the performances that he put in last year, he 100% deserved that championship.

“And I think these things happen from time to time. Sometimes there are close calls in sports.

“For me, I was very disappointed in the way the FIA ​​treated Michael because he was in control of the race doing the best he could with the pressure he was under. The mantra was always very clear that he was always going to be under pressure to restart that run. Nobody wanted to see a world championship won with a Safety Car.

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