The FIA has now made it plain that ‘all’ lapped cars must un-lap themselves before a restart.

To avoid a repeat of the controversy that arose after last year’s title-deciding race in Abu Dhabi, Formula One’s governing body has revised its safety car rules.

In the closing laps at Yas Marina Circuit, race director Michael Masi, who was dismissed from his job last month, went against protocol to allow Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to past Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and clinch the title on the penultimate lap.

The decision effectively denied Hamilton a record eighth title, as both drivers were tied on points heading into the last race of 2021.

The FIA, the sport’s governing body, has clarified that “all” lapped cars must unlap themselves before a restart, rather than the more ambiguous “any.”

After just the lapped cars between Verstappen and Hamilton, who were currently leading, had unlapped themselves, Masi had permitted the race to resume.

Because lapped cars between Verstappen and third-placed Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, as well as those further down the field, were left in position, not all drivers in the field were treated equally. Eventually Verstappen who was on fresh tyres and the ability to overtake his title opponent, the Red Bull driver had enough time for one final lap of racing.

The decision effectively denied Hamilton a record eighth title, as both drivers were tied on points heading into the last race of 2021.

The FIA announced that a second contentious regulation from the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix overflow will remain in place. Following the broadcast of the notification indicating lapped cars may now overtake, the race must be restarted “at the end of the following lap.”

Masi disregarded the rule and resumed the race at the end of the lap during which only a few lapped cars were allowed to pass the leaders. The race would not have restarted if he had followed the rules, and Hamilton would have been crowned world champion.

The decision effectively denied Hamilton a record eighth title, as both drivers were tied on points heading into the last race of 2021.

Masi has subsequently been replaced by two officials, Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who will split the race director responsibilities as part of a broader reorganization of the refereeing process.

Herbie Blash, a long-time FIA advisor who retired in 2016 after 50 years in the sport, will rejoin them as a permanent senior advisor. Blash formerly worked as an assistant to Charlie Whiting, the late race director.

This weekend sees the start of the new season in Bahrain.

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