Lewis Hamilton faces a two-month wait to discover the outcome of the FIA’s inquiry into the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which denied him a record eighth world title.
Formula One’s sporting federation revealed on Thursday – nearly five weeks after Max Verstappen was controversially crowned champion – that their decision will not be announced until 18 March. The 2022 season-opening race in Bahrain takes place just two days later.
Hamilton, who turned 37 last week, remains disillusioned with F1 following the FIA race director Michael Masi’s handling of a safety car restart in the concluding moments of the race at the Yas Marina circuit. Red Bull driver Verstappen was able to take advantage of fresh tyres to pass Hamilton on the final lap and win his first world championship.
Hamilton has not spoken publicly since he lost out to Verstappen on 12 December 12, and it has even been reported that the Mercedes driver’s future could hinge on the FIA’s findings. The inquiry was launched earlier this week, and Hamilton – along with his fellow drivers – has been invited to speak to the sport’s governing body about the use of the safety car.
In a statement, the FIA’s first on the subject since it initially announced the investigation three days after the Abu Dhabi GP, said “the outcome of the detailed analysis will be presented to the F1 Commission in February,” with the “final decisions announced at the World Motor Sport Council in Bahrain on 18 March” – more than three months after the 2021 season ended.
The new FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, was elected to replace the outgoing Jean Todt last month and has made resolving the farcical end to last season as his top priority. It is unclear whether Australian Masi will retain his position as race director.
Formula One pundit Martin Brundle, who took part in 158 races as a driver, told Sky Sports: “Michael [Masi] clearly has one life left and I don’t know whether that is tenable all-round. But changing [the race director] will not fix the problem.
“This is way too big a job for one person to handle a 23-race season that is only going to grow,” Brundle added. “If Masi stays he needs a lot of support around him – I suspect that is what they are looking at – and [if he goes] who would actually want to step into his shoes right now?”
Testing for the new season begins in Barcelona on 23 February. In other news, the Alpine team’s executive director, Marcin Budkowski, is to leave the team with immediate effect. The former Aston Martin chief Otmar Szafnauer, who left his previous team eight days ago, has been linked with a move to Alpine.