'Human error' led to controversial Abu Dhabi finale, Masi acted in 'good faith' – FIA

By Sports Desk March 19, 2022

Michael Masi acted in "good faith" in how he handled the controversial end of last season's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with "human error" leading to the rules surrounding lapped cars not being applied properly, the FIA has said.

Masi was last month removed as Formula One race director following a "detailed analysis" of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen dramatically beat Lewis Hamilton to the drivers' championship last season.

Verstappen overtook Hamilton on the final lap of the final race, denying his rival a record-breaking eighth title.

However, the Red Bull star was only able to stage that late recovery after Masi let the cars between the pair – running first and second but separated by a series of lapped rivals – pass a safety car and allow one lap of racing.

Verstappen, on fresher tyres, prevailed, prompting a protest from Hamilton and Mercedes.

While that bid failed, there has remained a great deal of discussion around the decision-making of Masi, who was replaced by two men in Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas.

But, in confirming the result of the race and 2021 F1 world championship as final, the FIA insisted Masi had not acted with any malice.

In a summary of the findings of its report into the race, an FIA statement read in part: "In combination with the objective to finish under green flag racing conditions applied throughout the 2021 season, the report finds that the race director was acting in good faith and to the best of his knowledge given the difficult circumstances, particularly acknowledging the significant time constraints for decisions to be made and the immense pressure being applied by the teams. 

"The results of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the FIA Formula One World Championship are valid, final and cannot now be changed. In accordance with the rules, Mercedes made a protest to the stewards after the race, seeking to change the race classification.

"The stewards dismissed the protest and Mercedes then had an opportunity to appeal that decision to the FIA International Court of Appeal, but did not do so. There are no other available mechanisms in the rules for amending the race classification.

"The process of identifying lapped cars has up until now been a manual one and human error lead to the fact that not all cars were allowed to un-lap themselves.

"Due to the fact that manual interventions generally carry a higher risk of human error, software has been developed that will, from now on, automate the communication of the list of cars that must un-lap themselves. In addition, the 2022 Formula One Sporting Regulations have been recently updated to clarify that “all” and not “any” cars must be permitted to un-lap themselves.

"This process of identifying lapped cars has been reviewed as part of the recommendations previously announced by the FIA President in his statement of 17 February 2022, which also includes the creation of FIA Remote Operations Centre, the integration of a new and extended team to run trackside operations as well as a review of the interactions between teams and Race Control during track running."

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    Fabio Quartararo lamented a "rookie mistake" after twice crashing at the Dutch TT to see the 2022 MotoGP title race blown wide open again.

    The Monster Energy Yamaha rider's lead over Aleix Espargaro at the top of the standings was cut from 34 points to 21 after failing to finish Sunday's race in Assen.

    After a near blemish-free season up to this point, reigning world champion Quartararo uncharacteristically clattered into Espargaro early on when pushing for second place.

    Both riders ended in the gravel, but whereas Espargaro was able to make up significant ground to finish fourth, Quartararo again came off his bike on lap 12.

    He lost grip on his rear tyre and was sent flying over his handlebars in a nasty fall, with this his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia 2020.

    Quartararo apologised to Espargaro immediately after the race, which was won by Francesco Bagnaia, and took full blame for the contentious incident.

    "I made a rookie mistake. I wanted to push too much from the beginning," he told Canal+. "I apologise to Aprilia and to Aleix for putting him out of the track.

    "It's with these mistakes that you learn for the future, but it was a really stupid mistake. We could very well have set a very good pace and fought for the win. 

    "These are mistakes that you learn from for the future. I wanted to restart and try to score some points, but I saw that the bike was a problem. 

    "I stopped, the team told me to restart in case of rain, but when I restarted, I could see that something was wrong.

    "I tried, but I don't know [what happened]. We have to analyse the crash, but I lost the rear a bit abruptly, so we'll see what they say. I made a rookie mistake."

    Despite seeing his lead cut, Quartararo still holds a healthy advantage at the top of the riders' standings heading into the five-week break.

    Espargaro produced the ride of the day – and one of the best individual rides of the season – to recover from 15th after being sent off the track by his title rival.

    The Aprilia rider overtook Jack Miller and Brad Binder on the final lap to finish just outside the podium places, but he could not make a serious dent in Quartararo's title lead. 

    "I was very strong in that place, and Fabio knew it," Espargaro said of the early collision. "The reason Fabio did his movement is because his feeling with the bike is super-high. 

    "We saw it also in Germany, corner one with [the overtake on Bagnaia]. He's not a dirty rider, but his confidence is that high.

    "Today, it's not that he was arrogant. But because he felt super, a lot faster than the rest, he made a bad judgment.

    "I knew this could happen. From this moment I said to myself – Fabio is almost perfect, he made no mistakes during the season, so if he makes one mistake you have to profit."

    Ducati's poleman Bagnaia led from the start to move back to within 66 points of Quartararo with nine rounds to go.

    The Italian, who is fourth in the championship, now has three wins and three retirements in his past six races.

    Bagnaia never looked like relinquishing first place to Marco Bezzecchi, although he admitted to being "terrified" of a third DNF in a row when rain hit late on in the Netherlands.

    "Looking at the gap with Bezzecchi, he was always catching," Bagnaia said. "I had to push again, I had to open this gap again to be smarter and more calm again later in the race.

    "But then the rain came. When I saw the rain, I just slowed down a bit, but Bezzecchi was pushing again.

    "So, it was very difficult. I was terrified to crash again, so the main thing was to finish the race. It wasn't easy, but I tried to be smart, I tried to not push over the limit."

  • Bagnaia reignites title hopes as Quartararo crashes out of dramatic Dutch TT Bagnaia reignites title hopes as Quartararo crashes out of dramatic Dutch TT

    Francesco Bagnaia reignited his 2022 MotoGP title hopes with victory at a dramatic Dutch TT, in which championship leader Fabio Quartararo failed to finish.

    Ducati rider Bagnaia had crashed out in four of the previous 10 races this year, but he took full advantage of pole position on Sunday by comfortably holding on to first place.

    Quartararo endured a rare off day in Assen, the Monster Energy Yamaha rider finishing outside the points after twice crashing to see his championship lead cut.

    Bagnaia is now 66 points behind the Frenchman heading into the five-week break, while Aleix Espargaro is within 21 points of top spot after making an exceptional recovery.

    The drama at Circuit Assen started at Turn 5 when Quartararo, in an attempt to take second place from Espargaro, collided with his rival in a hugely contentious moment.

    Both riders ended in the gravel before rejoining. But while Espargaro brilliantly made up ground, Quartararo was left with too much to do and crashed for a second time.

    The reigning world champion high-sided out of Turn 5 and landed awkwardly, bringing an end to his race and marking his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia in 2020.

    The rain started to fall soon after, adding even more drama to a race that had it all, though ultimately Bagnaia saw things through by holding off Marco Bezzecchi.

    Jack Miller, who served a long lap penalty, was not able to join his Ducati team-mate on the podium as he failed to catch Maverick Vinales – his first top-three finish for Aprilia.

    Miller was then overtaken by Espargaro, who also moved in front of Brad Binder to climb from sixth to fourth in an exceptional final lap as the title race was blown wide open.

    TOP 10

    1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 
    2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.444s
    3. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +1.209s
    4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +2.585
    5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +2.721s
    6. Jack Miller (Ducati) +3.045s
    7. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +4.340s
    8. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.185s
    9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +8.325s
    10. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.956s

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 172
    2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 151
    3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 114
    4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 106
    5. Enea Bastianini (Gresini) 105

    Teams

    1. Aprilia Racing 213
    2. Monster Energy Yamaha 197
    3. Ducati 197
    4. Pramac Racing 184
    5. Red Bull KTM 164

  • Bagnaia reignites title hopes as Quartararo crashes out of dramatic Dutch GP Bagnaia reignites title hopes as Quartararo crashes out of dramatic Dutch GP

    Francesco Bagnaia reignited his 2022 MotoGP title hopes with victory at a dramatic Dutch Grand Prix, in which championship leader Fabio Quartararo failed to finish.

    Ducati rider Bagnaia had crashed out in four of the previous 10 races this year, but he took full advantage of pole position on Sunday by comfortably holding on to first place.

    Quartararo endured a rare off day in Assen, the Monster Energy Yamaha rider finishing outside the points after twice crashing to see his championship lead cut.

    Bagnaia is now 66 points behind the Frenchman heading into the five-week break, while Aleix Espargaro is within 21 points of top spot after making an exceptional recovery.

    The drama at Circuit Assen started at Turn 5 when Quartararo, in an attempt to take second place from Espargaro, collided with his rival in a hugely contentious moment.

    Both riders ended in the gravel before rejoining. But while Espargaro brilliantly made up ground, Quartararo was left with too much to do and crashed for a second time.

    The reigning world champion high-sided out of Turn 5 and landed awkwardly, bringing an end to his race and marking his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia in 2020.

    The rain started to fall soon after, adding even more drama to a race that had it all, though ultimately Bagnaia saw things through by holding off Marco Bezzecchi.

    It was not quite an all-Ducati podium as Jack Miller, who served a long lap penalty, could not catch Maverick Vinales as he claimed his first top-three finish for Aprilia.

    Miller was then overtaken by Espargaro, who also moved in front of Brad Binder to climb from sixth to fourth in an exceptional final lap as the title race was blown wide open.

    TOP 10

    1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 
    2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.444s
    3. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +1.209s
    4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +2.585
    5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +2.721s
    6. Jack Miller (Ducati) +3.045s
    7. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +4.340s
    8. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.185s
    9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +8.325s
    10. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.956s

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 172
    2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 151
    3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 114
    4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 106
    5. Enea Bastianini (Gresini) 105

    Teams

    1. Aprilia Racing 213
    2. Monster Energy Yamaha 197
    3. Ducati 197
    4. Pramac Racing 184
    5. Red Bull KTM 164

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