Masi did make mistake with title-deciding Abu Dhabi GP restart, Horner admits

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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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, at which Max Verstappen won the world championship.

Verstappen overtook title rival Lewis Hamilton to win the race and the world championship after a restart on the final lap. But the outcome of the title fight was plunged into acrimony when it emerged FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi had not followed the rules correctly.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team were eventually persuaded not to appeal against the result, which meant the world championship was not decided in a court room. However the FIA agreed to examine the controversial end to the season and, 97 days after the race, issued a report concluding errors had been made in the disputed restart.

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

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

Comment: Call F1’s championship finale tainted, but not its deserving new champion
“He made one mistake in that he didn’t allow all lapped cars to un-lap themselves,” Horner told The Cambridge Union. “I think there was three cars that were kept at the back of the field and unable to [un-] lap themselves. That was the only mistake that he made.”

Horner did not refer to Masi’s error in ordering the Safety Car into the pits a lap earlier than the rules specified.

“So I thought it was tremendously harsh for him to be hung out to dry, particularly in public, and then the trolling that he got and the abuse that he got online without really support the federation behind him,” Horner continued.

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

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

(L to R), Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022
Feature: The omission in the FIA’s Abu Dhabi report which may store up trouble for the future
“Obviously a lot has been made out of Abu Dhabi. It was a shame that actually Max’s achievements during the course of the last year were, if any way, diluted by what happened in Abu Dhabi.”

Horner suspects the coverage of the race would have been different had the final lap controversy worked in Hamilton’s favour instead of Verstappen’s

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

“Sometimes I ask myself how would that have been broadcast if Lewis Hamilton had won it on the last lap? Would he have been the hero rather than the villain?”

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

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

“And I think that these things occasionally happen. There are sometimes as close calls in sport.

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

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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188 comments on “Masi did make mistake with title-deciding Abu Dhabi GP restart, Horner admits”

  1. Let it go, let it go.

    1. It will always put a question mark over the 2021 WDC

      1. But almost only by UK racefans. They are the ones that can’t get over it. Most f1 fans in the rest of the world were excited by the way the race and the championship was decided in the final lap. There is no scenario you can think of more spectacular then that.

        1. I’m in the USA. I’m not British. Lewis is the eight time world champion.

          1. Also in the USA, where I do a lot of sim racing, so I get to talk racing regularly, and no one thinks Max legitimately won that championship.

        2. Not from the UK or the US, to me Hamilton is the 2021 WDC.

          Most of the ones that don’t have a problem with the title being taken from Lewis, are Dutch (as your username suggests you are as well), or just die-hard Max fans around the world.
          Judging by what I see on my country’s local comment sections there are quite many racist people who are just happy that Lewis lost the title, they don’t care about who won it and how, they even justify it.
          And finally there are just many people that don’t like Lewis, because of the dominance he had.
          Not too many sane people that really think Max won it fairly.

    2. Tell that to the “journalists” asking the questions. You’ve been here long enough, you should know better that people aren’t just making statements, they are being asked questions.

    3. Let go what? Here right now we have a current F1 Team Principal being brazenly dishonest, still pretending the alternative to what happened was finishing under the safety car, when it was simply not unlapping as Masi originally announced. So it’s relevant, and an insight into the ongoing culture at Red Bull.

    4. That last race was the most exciting F1 season finish I’ve ever watched I and I expect so many others felt like throwing the remote at the TV. It was SO wrong what was done. Now Horner has agreed. It should be given to the real winner.

      1. Too bad he’s not the real winner as there were other questionable circumstances earlier in the season, if we make justice every race verstappen still wins.

    5. LOL
      The crucial moment in the world championship at the most demanding racing Formula was a sad travesty, and now we have the director of the winning team blatantly lying, and some people just ask to let it go….
      Horner should have at least the decency to remain silent.

      1. So he should just stare silently at the person asking the question?

        1. nope. just answer with ‘got nothing go say to this matter’.

    6. You can’t let it go. It was completely wrong. The FIA should have stripped Verstappen and given the WDC to Hamilton

      1. Not really because Max did nothing wrong.

  2. Obviously I don’t know what was going through Michaels head in that moment. It was a strange call, I guess the pressure to finish under a racing lap was probably the key factor.

    But I think it is healthy to remember that that was one instance of probably thousands throughout the season that advantaged one driver over the other and it happened that that was the last one. There was always going to be a last one. If Abu Dhabi had been the third race of the season, we wouldn’t still be talking about it.

    The red flag at Imola et al – Lewis had his fair share of good calls for him over the season – Max’s puncture in Azerbaijan. The list could go on forever. What I like to remember the 2021 season is by two fantastic drivers, pushed to the limit, and wowing us with what they’re capable of. Anyone who watched 10 months of them all over the globe fighting over every inch.

    They were both incredible, every engineer, software specialist, mechanics, physiotherapists, teammate who ran the strategy that made them give up position.

    Rather than point at Masi, I’d rather we just celebrate a fantastic season. Any F1 fan has witnessed a fair few boring ones in their time. 2021 was entertaining, and a great test of skill. I wouldn’t begrudge either of them the title. And I’m glad I saw it.

    1. Will I mostly agree with you, just too points to pick:

      Max’s puncture in Baku was more luck for Hamilton than a good call as you have stated.

      And Abu Dhabi was the final season of the year, more so the final lap so it rightly does carry a lot more weight.

      While I was pretty disappointed I have found comfort in the way Lewis has handled it and moved on. I am sure it is still pretty painful but not much he can do now.

    2. Start from the very first race in Bahrain and how Lewis was the only driver who was allowed multiple track limit violations and later Max was ordered (by Masi) immediately to give a position back to Lewis after he already passed Lewis car fully, without even stewards having a look into it.

      1. @stn that was a self-own by Red Bull. They complained about Lewis exceeding track limits (even though the Race Director’s brief said track limits weren’t being enforced at that corner). Lewis was told to pack it in and the corner was more closely monitored from that point in the race.

        Also, leaving the track and passing another driver off track are quite rightly treated differently

        1. you have totally wrong understanding of the case.

          1. HarrierJint
            29th June 2022, 9:44

            You are incorrect and it’s you that has misunderstood, the poster above is correct.

            You can’t leave the track to pass another driver, there was nothing to look into, he was wrong and it had to be given back, that’s a hard rule and it doesn’t matter what part of the track you’re on BUT track limits were not enforced on that corner during the course of a normal lap (the RD brief made this clear). Hamilton had done nothing wrong and RBR was just trying its luck.

            You might not like that, that would be understandable, but Hamilton did nothing wrong and you’ve entirely misunderstood how track limits work.

          2. @stn Its illegal to gain a lasting advantage by leaving the track, that’s why race control issued the order to give the place back and RBR complied.
            Hamilton exceeded track limits at T4 dozen’s of times and was probably the worse offender, but he by no means the only driver as you stated. They only started enforcing limits after RBR told Max to do the same thing. It all stemmed from Masi giving ambiguous track limit instructions at the drivers briefing on the Friday, applying different rules for the race than for FP & Qualifying.
            If you’re after the facts, you can find it all in the official FIA race report, Masi’s comments before and after the race, and this sites race report.

      2. You have no idea what you’re talking about. When the race director instructed a driver to give a place back it is actually a request, he didn’t have the power to penalise Verstappen. Had Verstappen refused to give the place back then Masi would have referred it to the stewards and then the penalty could be anything from a 5 second penalty to a drive through depending on circumstance. Verstappen has likily overtaken more cars off track than any other driver in the history of the sport and he’s probably not even half way through his career.

        The Hamilton track limit infringements were not violations in the race according to the race directors notes for that weekend and as soon as he changed his mind and instructed Hamilton to not exceed the limits at the corner he followed the instructions. It’s fair to point out that it’s likely why this year they’ve done away with the stupid Masi policy of will he wont he enforce them each weekend.

        Hamilton was excessively penalised several times last year, Verstappen got away with numerous calls including attempting to deliberately crash with Hamilton on at least 3 occasions and actually succeeded at Monza. Despite all the complaints from Verstappen’s fans, Hamilton was penalised suitably at Silverstone for what was in a lot of people eyes a racing incident.

      3. Loads of drivers went over track limits because it was agreed in the pre race notes that track limits were not going to be enforced. I think people get mixed up with OVERTAKING off track, which is what Max did and which is never allowed.

        1. @amam Although Masi and the stewards did allow an entirely new rule in Brazil, DEFENDING off track! Go as wide as you like to make sure your opponent can’t get past. Admittedly a rule with a very short-life after they subsequently banned doing that. But all the good rules (or most convenient to someone or other) usually are.

          1. What Max got away with in Brazil was unbelievable. It was that incident that had a lot of the drivers complaining and why the FIA introduced new racing guidelines for this season.

          2. Max was out of line in Brazil, but I really believe he was driving like he owed Lewis one after nearly killing him at Silverstone. You have to agree that it all got ugly after that. Adrian Newry was still fuming about it in AD just after they won the title. Sticking a hopeful wheel up the inside at Copse is a lot different to doing it at a slow chicane.

          3. Max had no right to feel aggrieved after nearly decapitating Lewis in Monza. He needs to quite with the hypocrisy

          4. * quit, not quite

            Why is there no amending/correction facility on this site?

          5. @amam: It’s in line with the zero tolerance policy of F1. Anything you say, will be held against you, for the rest of time, whether you meant it or not.

  3. If Abu Dhabi had been the third race of the season, we wouldn’t still be talking about it.

    If Abu Dhabi had been the third race of the season, I doubt the race would have resumed, that’s the problem.

    It leaves a bad taste and it took the shine off the season. In an attempt to make it extra special he ruined it

    1. Absolutely, just responded with the same rhetoric.

    2. @3dom I agree, the third race of the season would have ended under SC. But you say ‘he’ ruined it. But who is to say that the FIA and the teams didn’t argue beforehand that deciding the championship under SC should have been avoided at all costs? There were conflicting interests (apply the correct rules under SC versus don’t let this championship be decided behind the SC), and Masi had to pick one.

      1. there were conflicting interests (apply the correct rules under SC versus don’t let this championship be decided behind the SC), and Masi had to pick one.

        Masi could’ve picked a more fairer option. If he was adamant that the race had to restart without following the correct safety car procedures, then what he SHOULD’VE done is to leave ALL the lapped cars in place. What he did was handpick the lapped cars in between Max and Lewis to be moved out the way

        1. That’s because he likely panicked after not letting them go earlier and realised he didn’t have time to get them all round to finish under greens.

          1. He didnt realize that he hadnt let them unlap earlier, as he didnt have that option.

      2. If the teams had agreed to change the rules for the last race of the championship then perhaps Mercedes would have changed its strategy during the last SC period. Instead they were caught off guard by Masi’s decision.

  4. The other mistake was breaching the one entire lap requirement, but surprising how Horner suddenly brought up this matter this long afterwards.
    BTW, Masi still hasn’t come out from hiding in a cave he’s done ever since the days after like he didn’t even exist.

    1. I would guess Horner was asked about it specifically @jerejj, which is why he brings it up now.

      As for Masi, the guy got death threats. I’d also be keeping a low profile if I were him.

      1. So did the marshal who showed that yellow flag to Max in Qatar – but nobody seems to care that he was threatened in that manner.

        1. wrong, people supported the marshall afterwards. Even Horner excused for his remark.
          Masi on the other hand was thrown for the bus and some even pushed the pedal to hit him harder.

    2. @Jere, the FIA themselves explained that calling in the SC a lap earlier was NOT a mistake. In their words: “It was apparent from the analysis that there could be different interpretations of Article 48.12 and Article 48.13 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations”, and “the report finds that the Race Director was acting in good faith and to the best of his knowledge”.

      1. @jff His intention was wrong & an unjustifiable reason for using his overriding right.

        1. I think what you mean there, @jerejj, is not that the FIA got it wrong, but that you think the FIA got it wrong.
          The FIA do the rules, not the viewers.
          If they interpret their own rules a certain way, then that is the right way.

          1. You are wrong, and we have a good example quite recently at Monaco where the Race Director misinterpreted the rules regarding crossing the line at the pit exit. The FIA ruled against penalising Max, stating that the RD was wrong, and they had a duty to comply with the rules as per article 2.1. I have been quoting this article with reference to Abu Dhabi because it confirms that Masi was not allowed to break the rules. The (mis)interpretations you mention were actually put forward by Horner, and then wrongly upheld by the FIA officials who should have known better. Both the FIA and Horner have since acknowledged that Masi did in fact break the rules, which confirms what most of us already knew (and is really quite obvious), that the Red Bull interpretations were incorrect, and the fact that the FIA stewards said they were correct did not actually make them correct. Furthermore the Monaco debacle shows that, contrary to what the FIA said in their Abu Dhabi report, the FIA is allowed to retroactively overrule the FIA officials if they are not complying with the rules, in fact they have a duty to do so. Article 2.2 states that “ 2.2 The Championship and each of its Events is governed by the FIA in accordance with the Regulations.” The FIA do not comply with 2.2 until they overrule the AD stewards and record the correct result. What does this say about the validity of the 2021 championship in legal terms?

          2. acting in good faith to the best of his knowledge means something like he completly f…ed up.

        2. @jerejj,
          S, already replied, but I’ll do it as well as I see these mistake (and part truth) too often here.
          FIA investigated and FIA concluded that it was not a mistake.
          They gave their reasoning, and those are quite different from your views/opinions (nothing more than that) as shared above. I suggest you read the full FIA report.

          PS I’m not happy with the procedures of the final laps in Abu Dhabi either, but that doesn’t make it wrong.
          Masi/FIA created this mess by confusing rules and inconsistent rulings throughout the season.

          1. in the cover letter to the report the FIA stated

            “The race director called the safety car back into the pit lane without it having completed an additional lap as required by the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations,”

            in the body of the report they seemingly left it to the stewards interpretation, and instead reported on the selection of cars for unlapping. There is nowhere where the state categorically that no mistake was made.

          2. There is nowhere where (they) state categorically that no mistake was made.

            But more importantly, there is nowhere where they state (categorically or not) that a mistake was made.

            And interestingly you only report the line which suits your argument.
            This is whole set of paragraphs from that statement:

            The safety car procedure was a central topic of discussion during the detailed analysis and clarification exercise, stemming from the application of this procedure at the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP, pursuant to Articles 48.12 and 48.13 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations.

            The Race Director called the safety car back into the pit lane without it having completed an additional lap as required by the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations (Article 48.12).

            It was apparent from the analysis that there could be different interpretations of Article 48.12 and Article 48.13 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, and that this likely contributed to the applied procedure.

            It was also considered that the decisions regarding the Safety Car at the end of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix likely took into account previous discussions that made clear the Formula 1 Stakeholders (FIA, Formula 1, Teams and Drivers) preference to end races under green flag racing conditions, rather than behind a safety car, when safe to do so.

            In combination with the objective to finish under green flag racing conditions applied throughout the 2021 season, the report finds that the Race Director was acting in good faith and to the best of his knowledge given the difficult circumstances, particularly acknowledging the significant time constraints for decisions to be made and the immense pressure being applied by the teams.

            I also suggest you read (the Executive Summary of) the report (
            especially items 31. and 32.

    3. Bruh, how do you still think people are just “bringing it up”? They are being asked. Honestly.

  5. A person somewhere
    29th June 2022, 8:12

    There was a lot of decisions he made last year that we felt went against us, whether it was yellow flags in qualifying in Qatar

    Yellow flags would be down to the marshals on scene rather than the race director surely? Horner simply cannot help himself, everything he says is disingenuous.

      1. @stn yellow flags are down to the marshals. They put out the flags then radio race control to say they’ve done so. The only times when this isn’t true is during a full-course yellow, which F1 uses the VSC system for.

        1. the race control did NOT put out the yellow flags during that incident. The was no yellow signal neither on information panel, nor on Max steering wheel. The marshal put out the yellow flag extremely late, just when Max was already passing him, in dark place, barely visible and in a position where driver couldn’t see it, as it is clear Max would look at slow car at the right side of the track, not at the left side.
          On top of that, the stewards have cleared Sainz for doing the same, It was a bad mistake by a marshal, there was no dangerous situation on the race track..

          1. There was a car stopped on the track right opposite the marshal post. The marshal did the right thing.

    1. Horner’s an ass.. there was nothing wrong with the yellow flag incident in qatar.. and in Silverstone Lewis got a penalty he deserved. The fact that he’s even comparing it to a clear breach of the rules that won them the championship is ridiculous. Red Bull must have had a lot of bad luck in 2021 (Baku and Silverstone come to mind), but they definitely got the better decisions from stewards. Including the most important one, that decided whether th