Sunday, January 16, 2022

F1 risks losing Hamilton but you wouldn’t know from painfully slow Abu Dhabi GP investigation

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The FIA ​​​​is tasked with assessing what happened under the safety car in 10 insane minutes, not a crime, writes Kevin Garside

Of the F1 procedural overhaul promised by the FIA ​​investigation into the Abu Dhabi end-of-season debacle, a key promise that would never end could be to proceed at a pace worthy of the world’s fastest show.

The wheels of the investigation that will determine Lewis Hamilton’s future in Formula One are finally turning, albeit not nearly fast enough.

This is sport, not a court case. The FIA ​​is tasked with assessing what happened under the safety car in 10 insane minutes, not a crime although it has felt like one to Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes and their supporters.

Finally, almost a month after the event, Formula 1’s governing body gave an overview of how it intends to proceed. The facts are clear and already known. Race director Michael Masi chose to impose his own authority on events, rather than following the safety car conventions as outlined in the rules.

As a result, the world title passed from one driver, Hamilton, to another, Max Verstappen, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of Mercedes, Hamilton and purists alike.

The investigation amounts to a vox-pop by drivers and team bosses to gauge sentiment in the paddock over the incident as it unfolded, the role of radio communications between teams and race officials, and the future use of the safety car.

Under serious scrutiny are the positions of Masi and FIA F1 technical adviser pal Nikolas Tombazi, both of whom may not survive as new FIA President Mohammed bin Sulayem seeks to bring Hamilton and Mercedes back to the side.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff met Bin Sulayem on Friday for the first time since his appointment at FIA headquarters in Paris. It was no coincidence that the FIA ​​​​started their investigation the day before. Hamilton and Wolff’s silence since the season finale has acquired strategic power. As the information gap filled with negative speculation about Hamilton’s future, Mercedes remained silent. Wolff’s emotional riffs in the immediacy of defeat, which cast doubt on Hamilton’s continued presence on the starting lineup in 2022, sparked endless conspiracies to resign.

This, in turn, increased pressure on a governing body already concerned about the reputational damage caused by Masi’s unilateral interpretation of the rules. So we see how Wolff’s appearance in Paris and the escalation of the investigation could be related.

The inquiry is being led by FIA Secretary General for Sport Peter Bayer, who will examine the role of the safety car at a Sporting Advisory Committee meeting next week before sharing his findings with drivers and teams. The findings of the investigation are due to be submitted to the F1 Commission in February for rubber stamping recommendations at the next World Motor Sport Council meeting in Bahrain, 48 hours before the season’s opening Grand Prix in March.

Hamilton should learn the formal findings of the report in time for next month’s pre-season auto starts, if not sooner. Aston Martin is the first to announce a date, with covers coming of the February 10th 2022 model. All eyes are now on a Mercedes launch date, perhaps signaling Hamilton’s willingness to go again on the basis of that the FIA ​​have cleaned up their act and a repeat of Abu Dhabi will never happen again.

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