F1 chief Michael Masi defended for ‘pragmatic approach’ in controversial Abu Dhabi finale

Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing

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Former F1 driver Gerhard Berger has extended his praise to FIA race director Michael Masi for his “pragmatic approach” during the controversial end to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Masi has found himself in hot water over the title decider at Yas Marina after the highly anticipated clash between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen became a one-lap sprint in the finale.

After a brief safety car period with just a handful of laps remaining, the Australian instructed the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to un-lap themselves before the race started, but didn’t allow the entire field to do the same before getting racing back underway.

Mercedes were left fuming as Verstappen, on fresher tyres, swept past Hamilton on the final lap to win the 2021 world title in a last-lap dash to the chequered flag.

Despite plenty of criticism for Masi, Berger felt the race director acted accordingly to allow racing to get underway again.

“He takes a pragmatic approach and tries to find solutions, but I don’t think he does anything that isn’t allowed,” the former driver told ServusTV.

The Austrian also added he believed Mercedes were wrong to protest as regulations state the race director can decide to do things differently if they so desire during a race.

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“And he decided differently, not to help anyone but to give the fans one last round in sporting terms to finish the fight,” he added.

“[He] handled the situation well, even if it meant bad luck for one side. For the fan, it’s the right thing to do and he’s allowed to do it.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was furious after the race and refused to give any post-race interviews while in Abu Dhabi.

However, after dropping the team’s intent to take matters further after two protests were thrown out by stewards, Wolff said: “It is definitely on a par with the ‘Hand of God’ by Diego Maradona or the Wembley goal from 1966.

“An inconsistent decision by the race director took the title away from Lewis.

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“We decided together that we would protest and wanted to carefully consider a possible appeal.

“We decided together not to do this. The FIA would have been a defendant and a judge at the same time.

“This releases a feeling of powerlessness. Just like on Sunday in the last lap, that’s how I felt as a child.

“Lewis and I are still completely disaffected. My heart and soul still cry with every pore.

“When the principles of sport are disregarded and the stopwatch is no longer worth anything, one begins to question whether all the work, blood, sweat, and tears are worth it.

“The decisions that have been taken in the last four minutes of this race have robbed Lewis Hamilton of a deserved world championship,” he said after the race in Abu Dhabi.

“His driving, particularly in the last four races, was faultless.

“He had a commanding lead on Sunday in Abu Dhabi from the get-go. He won the start and he never gave the lead away again.

“And robbing him in the last lap of the race is unacceptable.

“That’s why from a personal standpoint, from a professional standpoint, my values, my sense of integrity, just isn’t compatible with the decisions that have been made on Sunday.

“And it is up to the FIA to decide going forward how these decisions, these situations can be avoided.”

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