FIA launches ‘thorough, objective and transparent’ investigation into Abu Dhabi race

An investigation by Formula 1’s governing body into last season’s final race in Abu Dhabi is gathering momentum amid speculation the outcome will decide whether seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton continues to race or retires from the sport. .

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) had promised last December “a detailed analysis and clarification exercise” of a controversy that it recognized tarnished the image of the championship. The body confirmed Thursday in a statement that its new president, Mohammed ben Sulayem, a native of the United Arab Emirates, has held a consultation with all the teams on various issues, including that last race.

The result of the analysis will be presented to the F1 Commission in February, and final decisions will be announced by the World Motor Sport Council in Bahrain on March 18.

An FIA spokesman said on Wednesday that the investigation was being led by Peter Bayer, the Geneva-based general secretary for motorsport, and that it would be “thorough, objective and transparent”.

The process began after the last World Council meeting held on December 15, two days before the election of Ben Sulayem as FIA president. The investigation has generated more activity in the last week.

Formula One racing director Michael Masi, the FIA ​​official at the center of the storm, sparked the scandal after a late change in safety car procedures gave Red Bull driver Max Verstappen an advantage.

Verstappen was subsequently able to overtake Hamilton on the last lap to win the race and his first title; denying the Mercedes driver his eighth championship, to set an all-time record in the discipline.

Mercedes, which believes Hamilton was robbed of his victory, threatened to appeal the result after the announcement of the FIA ​​investigation. However, he cautioned that he would hold the governing body to account and that he needed to see more action than words.

Some consider that Masi cannot hold his position; however, there is also no obvious substitute for Australian.

Hamilton is under contract with Mercedes until the end of 2023. However, there has been widespread speculation in the media that the driver could retire from the discipline if the FIA ​​does not provide an adequate response.

The British driver, who turned 37 this month, has stayed away from social media, refraining from making any public comments since the race on December 12.

Hamilton said on his team’s internal radio during the race that “this has been manipulated.”

The next World Council meeting is scheduled to take place on February 3 in Paris. However, the report must first go through the Formula One Commission and Sporting Advisory Committee for consideration.

The tests will begin on February 23 in Spain and the inaugural race of the season will be the Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 20.

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