The end to the 2021 Formula 1 season is arguably one of the most controversial ever. While many were concerned it would be a title-deciding clash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, it ended up being a controversy surrounding the use of the safety car and the decision to allow a select number of lapped cars to overtake.
Until now, fans are questioning the decision made by Race Director Michael Masi to let only a few lapped cars pass through in the last minute, allowing Verstappen to overtake Hamilton and take his maiden title.
Those that watched the race could see and hear Red Bull Racing and Mercedes-AMG Team Principals Christian Horner and Toto Wolff directly communicating with Masi. Specifically, they were questioning the decisions the race director made, effectively pressuring him to sway one way or another. At one point, Wolff even told Masi not to bring out a safety car since it would put Hamilton at a disadvantage.
2021 actually saw a unique feature added to the coverage of races, as Formula 1 allowed the communications between the teams to the race director to be televised, much in the same way that the comms between the driver and the pit lane are being broadcast too. This gave fans unprecedented insights into how races are run, but as seen during the Abu Dhabi finale, it may have been taken too far. And now F1 managing director Ross Brawn has had enough of it.
According to a report by Auto Motor und Sport who spoke with Brawn, F1 will cut the line of communication between team managers and principals and the race director next year. That means we will no longer see a repeat of Wolff and Horner or other team principals speaking directly to Masi starting next season. As a result, the race director will have full discretion of what to do without being pressured by others.
The controversies regarding the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will continue to be talked about for weeks and possibly even months to come. But the move to cut direct communication between team principals/managers and the race director will surely be welcomed by most. At least Masi, assuming he is still the race director for the 2022 season, will be free to decide on what to do without the influence of teams.