Abu Dhabi biggest blunder in sports history


The 2021 Formula 1 season in Abu Dhabi had a particularly controversial ending that will be talked about for a long time to come. FIA race director Michael Masi decided to override the sporting regulations by bringing in the safety car on the same lap that some drivers had cleared themselves from one lap. As a result, one more round could be raced on the Yas Marina Circuit, which gave Max Verstappen the world title. It sparked angry reactions from the Mercedes camp, as Lewis Hamilton had dominated the race up to that point.

Shortly after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Ernest Knoors labeled the controversial decision of the race management as the biggest sports blunder ever. More than a week later, the former F1 engine engineer still sees it that way, because the race management did not adhere to the rules that are written “in black on white” in the regulations by bringing in the safety car earlier: “That is really just can’t explain in the rules. Certainly also because the same race director in previous seasons at the Nürburgring [tijdens de Eifel GP in 2020] had the same situation and then said: ‘We are going to drive longer behind the safety car, because all cars that are one lap behind have to pass and only then can the safety car enter one lap later and we start racing.’ That’s a bit hard to reconcile.”

Mercedes had a good chance at protest

“It is not a judgment on whether Max Verstappen has deserved to win or not. What matters in this case is whether the rules have been applied as written in the booklet. That didn’t happen and Mercedes has a point there,” continues Knoors, who as team principal of MTEK has achieved countless successes in DTM and long-distance racing. He thinks Mercedes would have had a good chance if the team had actually challenged the result of the race with the appeals committee: “If Mercedes had persevered and lodged a protest, it would have ended up with lawyers and they will look without emotion as to whether the rules are followed or not. Then there will probably be an outcome that would be different. That would have been extremely bad for the sport.”

Despite the state of affairs, Knoors sees Verstappen as a deserved and deserved world champion. He also believes that FIA race director Michael Masi cannot be blamed, but it is good that the FIA ​​will investigate the matter in order to possibly handle such situations differently in the future: always have to be ready and able to apply while ten team bosses are chattering in your ear and all want to get their own advantage, that is impossible. I’m also not saying that Masi has done badly, that pressure is unbearable. But you have to look at the structure. Can anyone just talk to the race director? Perhaps the rule should be simplified so that it is more intuitive to apply? You have to go for rules that are easier to implement and are therefore clear and unanimously applicable. A different interpretation of the rules has now been applied, which is unfortunate for the sport. In the end, Max’s championship always has a little something to do with it. This is less strong in the Netherlands than in England. There they really see it as an injustice what has been done to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.”

View the entire conversation with Ernest Knoors at the top of this page, in which he also tells, among other things, which race he liked best this year and which drivers surprised him in a positive and negative sense.

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