Lewis Hamilton was snubbed of the World Drivers’ Championship title by Max Verstappen on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after a contentious decision made by FIA race director Michael Masi. Mercedes ambassador Susie Wolff is one of the latest to have her say on the incident that has divided racing fans around the world.
Hamilton led the final race at the Yas Marina Circuit throughout, despite a controversial moment in the opening lap, as he looked certain to clinch a record-breaking eighth Championship. Both he and Verstappen were battling for the title after an exhilarating 2021 season, which saw them tied on points ahead of the final weekend.
However, an incident involving Nicholas Latifi forced a safety car with just five laps to go. Hamilton did not enter the pits during the safety car period, as the Mercedes team feared Verstappen would stay out and therefore take the lead. However, the Dutch driver opted to pit for fresh tyres, which played a huge part in his victory. Masi initially stated the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen would not be allowed to un-lap themselves, but changed his mind at the last minute, which closed the gap between the two title contenders. This decision, plus the fresher tyres on the Red Bull, allowed Verstappen to pass his opponent into Turn Five before being greeted with the chequered flag at the end of the race. The 24-year-old had his celebrations interrupted as Mercedes protested the result. Thousands of fans and professionals alike took to social media to discuss the events that unfolded in Abi Dhabi. Wolff posted a lengthy message on Twitter about the result and the decisions made leading up to it.
“Going into the race weekend in Abu Dhabi, I believed both teams and both drivers deserved to win,” she wrote. “It was going to be a spectacle, an historic race that we all hoped would end without controversy. That wasn’t to be. “What happened is still hard to comprehend and leaves me with a sick feeling. Not the losing, and not Max or Red Bull, they are deserving winners and we always knew it was a strong possibility we may not win. “Wolff, wife of Mercedes team principal and CEO Toto, is an ambassador for the Silver Arrows and the CEO of Formula E team Venturi Racing. She is also a former racing driver, having competed in Formula Renault and Formula 3, as well as representing Williams in Formula 1 as a development driver.” The decision of one person within the governing body who applied a rule in a way which has never been done before in F1 single-handedly decided the F1 Driver World Championship,” Wolff continued.
“Rules are rules, they can’t be changed on a whim by one individual at the end of a race. “Lewis Hamilton, you have shown incredible integrity and dignity in the face of injustice. You are the greatest there has ever been.” Wolff then rounded off by congratulating Verstappen, but stated she hopes F1 will have a “governing body with sporting integrity and fairness at its core” by the start of the 2022 season.