With the 2022 Formula One season set to start on March 20, questions still swirl around whether Lewis Hamilton will return to race for Mercedes and a chance for a record eighth driver’s championship. How the FIA handles its investigation into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finish will play greatly into his return. It’s not every day that arguably the best driver on the planet is still contemplating racing in 2022,
but Lewis Hamilton continues to hold his intentions close to the vest. Hamilton and Mercedes are still steaming about how F1 race director Michael Masi handled the end of the final race of the season, and with it, the outcome of the championship. For those that don’t recall, a crash by Nicholas Latifi with just five laps to go brought out the safety car setting up a sprint for the finish.
Masi first said lapped cars between Hamilton and Max Verstappen – the two drivers tied for the championship – would not be allowed to pass the safety car, only to have Masi double back on the decision. Given that there were five lapped cars between the two, it would have been nearly impossible for Verstappen to have passed them, and Hamiton for the win.
Masi bent the rules in allowing just the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to pass the safety car, not others back in the field. With Verstappen having fresher tires, he was able to pass Hamilton for the win in a one-lap showdown, and with it, controversy ensued. The report on the race decision can’t possibly recommend that Hamilton be issued the win. And we’re clearly not rerunning the race.
How can the FIA and F1 retain any sense of credibility after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and give enough incentive for Hamilton to return? There appears to be only one answer: Masi has to be fired. At best the decisions he made were grossly inconsistent. At worst, it places an asterisk on the 2021 season, something unfair to both Hamilton and Verstappen. That would seem grounds for sacking Masi.
Budkowski was discussed as a possible chair for the FIA. Having him come in as race director pulls him into the FIA fold. All of this butts up against the clock. The FIA’s inquiry into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is not scheduled to be released until March 18 – just two days before the start of the season. It all sets up drama as to whether Hamilton commits before, or whether a decision such as firing Masi occurs.
— Formula 1 (@F1) January 13, 2022
Netflix has grown interest in F1 – most notably in the U.S. – with the Drive To Survive series. It’s as if F1 is creating undue drama for the series before the season starts with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix debacle.