Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing
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Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton could both be interviewed as part of the FIA’s internal enquiry into a contentious 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi. Hamilton and the Mercedes camp were left incensed at what they saw as an unfair call from race director Michael Masi, which effectively handed Verstappen the chance to clinch the title – one he took in dramatic fashion.
Hamilton looked to be cruising towards a record-breaking eighth world title at Yas Marina, until a late crash by Nicholas Latifi changed everything.
The pack bunched up behind the race leader, and although they were set to be released with one lap remaining, a hoard of lapped drivers between Hamilton and Verstappen looked to provide the Mercedes man enough of a buffer to take the chequered flag.
But Masi controversially ordered the lapped drivers through – a command made even more contentious as it was only followed by those between the title protagonists, rather than the whole field.
On fresher tyres, Verstappen pulled off the overtake on the final lap to clinch his first drivers’ crown.
Mercedes seemed destined to lodge an official appeal after the race, although they later withdrew their intention ahead of the FIA’s prize-giving gala.
According to a BBC Sport source, the Silver Arrows agreed to drop their appeal on the basis that Masi would be sacked ahead of the 2022 season.
Either way, the Australian is under severe pressure for his position, and plenty of senior figures are likely to be involved with the ensuing investigation.
Sky Sports’ Craig Slater said: “Three weeks is how long the FIA have set themselves to deal with this matter.
“Work only began in earnest on it on Monday.
“That is to say, this FIA commission started to interview those involved.
“Presumably Hamilton, Verstappen, the team bosses involved, the other drivers who were involved in this ‘unlapping yourself behind the safety car’ saga, or not involved in it as they case may be.
“Remember, one of the controversies was that five cars, the ones between Hamilton and Verstappen, unlapped themselves behind the safety car, but others did not.
“So this is going to go on. The FIA have told me that they will not be dragging this out, the investigation will be thorough, objective and transparent.
“This should be done by February 3, at which point the FIA have a motorsport council meeting, and they expect to announce those findings by then.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton’s F1 future remains in doubt since Mercedes boss Toto Wolff refused to rule out his retirement after the team’s Abu Dhabi heartbreak.
Next season, the 37-year-old will have a new team-mate in George Russell by his side if he decides to come back and fight for an eighth title.
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