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today is Dec 05, 2021

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The Sao Paulo Grand Prix stewards did not have access to a potentially crucial piece of video footage when they made their hotly-debated decision not to investigate whether Max Verstappen forced Lewis Hamilton off the track at Interlagos.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff called the decision not to examine the incident “laughable”. Verstappen and Hamilton ran wide at Descida do Lago, turn four, while the Red Bull driver was defending his lead on lap 48.

The only footage of the incident from Verstappen’s car shown on the worldwide television feed was from a rearward-facing camera. The perspective from the forward-facing camera above Verstappen’s cockpit, which would have revealed his steering inputs, was not broadcast.

FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi confirmed the stewards also did not have access to this footage when they made their decision.

“It hasn’t been obtained yet,” Masi confirmed. “It’s been requested.”

“It’s only the cameras that are broadcast is basically what we have access to throughout the week,” he added.

Masi admitted the footage could reveal significant information. “It could be, absolutely,” he said. “Potentially, absolutely.

“But no, we didn’t have access to it. Obviously it’s been downloaded and once we do, and once the commercial rights holder supplies it, we’ll have a look.”

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“The forward-facing , the 360[-degree footage], all of the camera angles that we don’t get live will be downloaded and we’ll have a look at them post-race,” he added.

However Masi denied the decision not to investigate the incident was “inconsistent” with past penalties. He pointed out teams had previously agreed to a philosophy of judging incidents referred to as “let them race”, which Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley alluded to in a conversation with Masi which was broadcast during the race.

“You judge the incident on its merits and you have a look at all of it. And let’s not forget, we have the overall ‘let them race’ principles, and looking at it all, with all of the angles that we had available, it was that philosophy was adopted.”

“They’re, give or take, about side-on-side,” Masi added. “So I think that for the benefit of everyone, it was the ‘let them race’ and [we] let them race.”

However Masi admitted he considered showing Verstappen the black-and-white ‘unsporting conduct’ flag for the incident, before he was shown it for weaving while trying to keep Hamilton behind later in the race.

“It certainly came into my mind, and then had sort of looked at it a few more times and it wasn’t far off a black-and-white flag, to be brutally honest, for Max.”

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2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

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