The FIA has confirmed a rule modification that has been highly discussed after the final round of the 2021 Formula 1 season and the controversial outcome of the F1 world championship, as Lewis Hamilton was passed by his title rival Max Verstappen on the last lap.
FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi made an unprecedented call by to restarting the event after only allowing some of the lapped drivers to rejoin the lead lap. Michael Masi gave permission to five lapped cars which were between race leader Lewis Hamilton and second-placed Max Verstappen to rejoin the lead lap. On the other hand there were two lapped cars between Verstappen and Scuderia Ferrari Spanish driver Carlos Sainz, who finished in third place and another car further back, were not allowed to overtake and created a lot of chaos on the last lap.
Mercedes had protested the Abu Dhabi result on the grounds that the safety car restart protocol had not been followed correctly, although this was rejected by the FIA stewards and the outcome of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix remained unchanged. But the stewards admitted that “Article 48.12 may not have been applied fully”.
Article 48.12 of the 2021 Sporting regulations read: “If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message ‘LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE’ has been sent to all Competitors via the official messaging system, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car.
“This will only apply to cars that were lapped at the time they crossed the Line at the end of the lap during which they crossed the first Safety Car line for the second time after the safety car was deployed.”
However, the latest version of the regulations, issued today sees Article 55.13 state that: “If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message ‘LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE’ has been sent to all Competitors using the official messaging system, all cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car”.
It was the ambiguity of the word ‘any’ that was at the centre of the storm, race director, Michael Masi having allowed only those five cars separating race leader Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to pass the Safety Car and un-lap themselves rather than all the cars that had been lapped. This change means that there is now no possible ambiguity in this regulation, as while “any” did suggest it should apply to all cars, there was room to dispute this as “any” and “all” are not exact synonyms.