One of Formula One’s most recent controversies has been visited again by Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. Speaking to the Cambridge Union he accepts Massi ‘got it wrong’ at the conclusion of the final race of 2021 in Abu Dhabi.
Formula One’s race director Michael Massi was determined not to allow the championship to be decided under the safety car and restarted the race with one lap to go. Red Bull had pitted their challenger who was in P2 to Hamilton, while Mercedes failed to give Lewis new tyres in case there was a restart to the race.
The FIA report noted that Massi “called the safety car back into the pit lane without it having completed an additional lap as required by the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations.”
Christian Horner agreed. “He made one mistake in that he didn’t allow all lapped cars to un-lap themselves.” The Red Bull boss continues explaining he thinks the consequences caused by Mercedes appeal and protests were unreasonable.
“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 madeHorner 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,”
Massi and the stewards decided that Lewis Hamilton had indeed ‘taken out’ Max Verstappen whilst leading during the British GP, yet gave him a meaningless time penalty that saw him win the race anyway.
Other penalties could have been issued including a grid drop that would have punished Hamilton properly for his sins.
“There was a lot of decisions he made last year that we felt went against us,” Horner continues
“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.”
“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 believes Mercedes behaviour following the race made matters worse and that had the boot been on the other foot there would have been less of an issue.
“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.
Of course had Hamilton won it on the last lap, Massi’s legacy would’ve been completely different.
“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?” questions Horner.
Of course the championship wasn’t won or lost in Abu Dhabi as Horner reminds his audience. Mercedes behaved dubiously when introducing new power units for ‘performance reasons’ something the regulations do not really provide for.
“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.”
Of course there was also the hype around Hamilton winning the 8th drivers’ title and beating Michael Schumachers record to deal with.
Though maybe justice was done, given no team has dominated F1 like Mercedes over the past decade, and Hamilton has won some of his titles merely because of that.