Lewis Hamilton refuses to let controversial end to 2021 season ‘define’ his career
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F1 veteran Herbie Blash has revealed what he would have done differently to Michael Masi during last year’s controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix following Nicolas Latifi’s crash. The 73-year-old has come back into the sport as part of a major structural change implemented by FIA president Mohammed bin Sulayem following the sacking of Michael Masi as FIA race director.
The Australian lost his job earlier this month following his role in the 2021 F1 title decider last December, which saw Lewis Hamilton cruelly denied a record eighth F1 world championship.
Masi has since been replaced by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who will alternate as race director, while Blash will be serving as their permanent senior advisor.
Latifi’s crash dramatically changed the landscape of the race and the title battle, as Hamilton was leading Verstappen by 11 seconds heading into the final laps of the race.
The safety car was brought onto the track and Verstappen opted for a change in tyres.
Masi initially instructed that lapped cars could not overtake the safety vehicle until it left the track, meaning there would not have been time for Verstappen to get behind his rival.
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However, the Australian later controversially changed his mind, allowing the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves before ordering the safety car off the track.
Therefore, the Dutchman could get on the British driver’s tail before overtaking him in a one-lap shootout, before benefitting from driving on far newer tyres and winning his maiden world title.
As the new season approaches, Blash is preparing to begin his new role, but during an interview with F1 journalist Peter Windsor, he explained how he would have handled the ending of the Abu Dhabi GP.
“First of all I was really sorry for Michael and for Lewis,” he said. “I was actually in Barbados watching with some friends, and under no pressure at all, when I saw the situation with the shunted car…wow.
“Ideal to stop the race and have a fantastic sprint race.
“Would I have done that if I had been in Abu Dhabi? That I don’t know. But sitting there with friends, that’s exactly what I said.
“But as I say, Michael was under huge pressure.”
Blash was former race director Charlie Whiting’s right-hand man until the Australian sadly passed away in 2019.
The pair worked extremely well together and many hope the open and honest approach they possessed will help to relieve the tension between officials, team principals and drivers following some of the contentious decisions made last year.
Despite having the experience and qualities to take on the role of race director, Blash instead will assist the decision-making of Wittich and Freitas.
Despite being removed from his role as race director, Masi will not lose his position at the FIA in its entirety, according to Ben Sulayem.
The FIA president said: “Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three years as Formula 1 race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA.”
Following the first round of pre-season testing in Barcelona last week, another round will take place in Bahrain from the March 10-12, before the first weekend of the 2022 season from the 18-20.
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