It’s been over a month since we had the Abu Dhabi finale, and finally, this week, we’ve heard that the investigation into the final few laps of the 2021 season is underway. The whole situation has caused plenty of anger in the F1 community and left everyone with more questions than answers.
However, the FIA have now revealed that we won’t know the results of the investigation until the season kicks off in Bahrain.
Despite the situation seeming to be never-ending, there are actually a few reasons why the investigation isn’t as quick as we’d all like. Let’s take a look into how the investigation works, why that means the outcome won’t be released until March 18th and what that could mean for a certain seven-time World Champion
Firstly, there’s a new face in charge of the FIA. Jean Todt’s 12-year reign as FIA President ended on December 17th, with Mohammed Ben Sulayem elected to the role, five days after Race Director Michael Masi’s controversial decision and a day after Mercedes had dropped their intention to appeal.
On December 15th, the FIA announced they’d be launching an investigation into what happened, which the World Motor Sport Council approved. So what’s happened between Ben Sulayem taking up his post and now? Well, winter break.
Following the longest season in F1 history, the FIA’s staff are still entitled to have a holiday! That means that the earliest the investigation could have begun was January 10th, the same day the FIA’s office reopened, and that’s exactly what happened.
Ultimately, investigations take time. When the FIA looked into Ferrari’s alleged cheating with their 2019 engine, they began their search before the final race of the season, a deal between the two was agreed the following February, and we still don’t exactly know what they discovered.
The important part of the investigation isn’t solely about finding out what happened in those closing laps; the stewards’ decisions already cover most of it. What matters is determining what lessons can be learnt, things that potentially need to change in the rules, and how they can avoid situations like this in the future, not only in F1 but also in other championships.
They need to get the facts and everyone’s opinions together to do that in-depth. The first stage of this began when the FIA President launched a consultation with all the teams looking at various issues, not just this one. That’s unsurprising because, as we saw throughout the season, there were plenty of inconsistent decisions being made.
From there, the FIA’s sporting advisory committee will meet on January 19th, where all the teams’ sporting directors and FIA representatives can discuss how the Safety Car is used.
After that, it’ll be time for the drivers to get their say in a shared discussion. Imagine trying to gather the opinions from 20 different drivers, who probably have a lot to say about last year, and you realise that there’s going to be plenty of back-and-forth between them and the FIA.
Eventually, once everyone’s thoughts and feelings have gathered, the ways F1 can move forward will start to become clearer. Although we won’t find out the exact outcomes until the season starts, the drivers and teams will already be aware of any key changes.
In early February, the F1 Commission plans to meet. Made up of teams and representatives from F1 and the FIA, this meeting should reveal what plans are being taken.
When they meet hasn’t been confirmed, but it’s likely to occur before the first pre-season test, scheduled for February 23rd to 25th at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain. Importantly, if the rumours that Hamilton is debating his F1 future are true, it could give him time to make a decision before testing the 2022 cars.
Lastly, the investigation’s findings need to be approved by the World Motor Sport Council on March 18th, the same day as FP1 at the Bahrain Grand Prix .
Any changes that need to be made must have the Council’s stamp of approval. Without it, the F1 and FIA couldn’t be held to account. It might seem like an unnecessary thing, but their role is to draft, amend and approve any regulations across all international motorsport.
Whatever the conclusions the investigations come to, it could have a major impact not only on 2022, but the future of F1.
Do you think the investigation will make any lasting changes? Let us know in the comments below.