Wolff welcomes FIA changes following Abu Dhabi GP investigation

Steve Etherington/Motorsport Images

Wolff welcomes FIA changes following Abu Dhabi GP investigation

Formula 1

Wolff welcomes FIA changes following Abu Dhabi GP investigation

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While confident the controversial ending to last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix came down to “circumstances” and that Mercedes did not demand Michael Masi lose his job in the aftermath of the Formula 1 season finale, team director Toto Wolff (pictured above) welcomes the changes made by the FIA this week as a result of its investigation of the handling of the race.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem announced on Thursday that Masi would no longer be race director for Formula 1 with the role to be split between Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, while permanently supported by Herbie Blash. There will also be a new remote race control center created, and while the sweeping changes suggest errors were made, Wolff is sure there was no intention to cost Lewis Hamilton the title in Abu Dhabi.

“No, nothing is fixed,” Wolff said. “I think it was just circumstances and decisions that were unprecedented. And how they came about certainly for us was a shock. Three laps to the end we got a message that the lapped cars were not allowed to unlap themselves, and three or four minutes later suddenly there’s two messages that came out of nowhere.

“Obviously we know what happened in the background unknown to us and then the championship was gone within literally half a minute after the decision-making process. That’s unprecedented, but also we have to move on from that. I think it’s in the past.

“With the measures that were announced yesterday by Mohammed, we need to put it aside. We are not going to forget it, because that’s simply not possible, but we need to look into 2022 and especially today launching the car, should be the moment we can really, with the steps taken by the FIA, embark with encouragement into the season.”

Mercedes had originally appealed the result of Abu Dhabi before dropping that appeal with the caveat that it expected action to be taken, but Wolff insists Masi’s departure was not a condition of that stance.

“Us dropping the appeal linked to anyone leaving the FIA is not true. I don’t know where that comes (from). I think that the restructuring within how decisions are being made in Formula 1, sporting decisions, have been made, and also technical decisions were necessary. Last year was a great season but it created a lot of polarization with decisions that were not always easy to understand.

“I believe that the right steps have been taken and I am optimistic about the changes that have been implemented. Certainly the role of a race director is not easy, and now having two very experienced guys up there, that is good, but the support structure that has been built around them is essential. Not only in the race director room but with a remote control room, where the race directors can rely on feedback and input to make the decision-making process easier for them.

“I believe the last couple of years, we have seen a little bit of ‘freestyle’ in the interpretation of the regulations, so yes, I’m happy with what has been implemented by the incoming president.”

Despite the silence from Hamilton over the winter and Wolff stating his driver was “disillusioned” with F1, he insists he never worried that the seven-time world champion would quit.

“I was never concerned that he was leaving. Within the team we knew that he needed to take the time to reflect on things, and particularly to understand how he would come back in the best possible frame of mind. So, on our side there was no worries about him not coming back.”

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