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Lewis Hamilton wish granted as Formula 1 safety car rules changed after 2021 controversy

Lewis Hamilton wish granted as Formula 1 safety car rules changed after 2021 controversy

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Lewis Hamilton gets his wish as FIA changes F1 rule on lapped cars overtaking safety car.

 

F1’s safety car rules have been altered following the controversial finish at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which culminated in Max Verstappen being crowned world champion.

The highly controversial safety car procedure which marred last season’s title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix won’t be repeated this season after F1 bosses confirmed a change to the rules.

The fallout from the drama at the Yas Marina has continued to rumble on, after Lewis Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth championship crown in dubious circumstances. The Mercedes man was comfortably leading the race from Max Verstappen by 11 seconds when with five laps to go, a crash by Williams driver Nicholas Latifi sparked a chaotic turn of events.

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A safety car was deployed with race director Michael Masi initially ordering that all cars would have to un-lap themselves before racing could restart. However, under pressure from Red Bull boss Christian Horner, the Australian then performed a u-turn, ruling that only the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen could perform that action.

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Masi then hastily ordered the safety vehicle off the track to ensure there was time for a final lap shootout, and with Verstappen having pitted when the drama initially started, the Dutchman was able to get on Hamilton’s shoulder and perform the overtake he needed before taking the chequered flag. Whilst the decisions undoubtedly made for an exhilarating climax, the process was vilified by many pundits and fans over the perception rules were altered in order to contrive an exciting finish.

Mercedes promptly launched two failed protests into the procedure, but an FIA enquiry into what transpired resulted in Masi being removed from his position ahead of the 2022 campaign. And now the governing body has clarified that moving forward, ‘all’ lapped cars must un-lap themselves before a restart.

The change replaces the wording in last year’s rules, which said ‘any’ lapped cars between the leaders should overtake and join the back of the field before a restart after a safety vehicle. However, the second rule under scrutiny following Abu Dhabi has now been changed – the requirement that the race must be restarted ‘at the end of the following lap’ after the message is relayed that lapped cars may now overtake.

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Lewis Hamilton drives behind the safety car at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi

Masi ignored this rule and restarted the race at the end of the lap on which he had ordered only some lapped cars – between the pair – to pass the leaders. Had he followed the correct regulations the race would not have restarted in time for Verstappen to chase down Hamilton.

A new era in F1 racing, with brand new technical regulations being introduced into the sport, will get underway in Bahrain this weekend. All teams have had to adapt their cars to adhere to the regulations, with Ferrari’s performance this far suggesting they could threaten the dominance of Mercedes and Red Bull in 2022.

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Sunday’s race will be the first of a record 23 Grand Prix’s held in this calendar year. And Hamilton will be desperate to exact revenge over his arch Red Bull rival in Bahrain.

But Mercedes didn’t have it all too easy during pre-season testing, and Hamilton expressed his title concerns heading into the 2022 campaign. Ferrari were the ones who impressed the most, with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc producing some rapid times in Barcelona and Bahrain.

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Speaking after the second-round of pre-season testing in Barcelona, Hamilton admitted: “It is too early to have those kind of thoughts about the world championship, but at the moment I don’t think we will be competing for wins.

“I am sure everyone can figure out that we are not the quickest. Ferrari look to be the fastest, and perhaps Red Bull and then maybe us, or McLaren. We are currently not at the top.”

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