Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has admitted that although the outcome of the 2021 F1 season was the correct one, race director Michael Masi did make a mistake during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that gave Max Verstappen his title.
The final race of the 2021 season is still sitting in the minds of F1 fans. During a safety car, Masi allowed a number of lapped cars to un-lap themselves, but not all of them. This cleared the way for Max Verstappen, who was sat behind Lewis Hamilton in P2 but with a number of lapped cars in between them, to get right behind the 7-time world champion and ready himself for an overtake on fresh tyres.
His overtake was successful and he finished first, taking home his first championship.
Because of this strange move from Masi, Mercedes took legal action against the F1, and while this didn’t amount to anything, Masi was later removed as race director and a number of rules were changed.
Now, Horner has admitted that he did make a mistake:
“He made one mistake in that he didn’t allow all lapped cars to un-lap themselves,” Horner told the Cambridge Union. “I think there was three cars that were kept at the back of the field and unable to [un-]lap themselves. That was the only mistake that he made.”
He continued to add that despite this, Masi had been treated in a “tremendously harsh” manner:
“So I thought it was tremendously harsh for him to be hung out to dry, particularly in public, and then the trolling that he got and the abuse that he got online without really support the federation behind him.
“There was a lot of decisions he made last year that we felt went against us, whether it was yellow flags in qualifying in Qatar or the Silverstone incident with Lewis. But I did feel sorry for him that there should have been more support after that championship because he was in an incredibly difficult position.”
He also commented on his own feelings during the end of the Abu Dhabi GP:
“For most of the race, I was thinking Mercedes had the upper hand.
“We’d qualified on pole but Lewis was pulling it away, he had the race under control.
“I was thinking ‘We’ve gone through all this year, we’ve been so close, but to lose both Championships, how am I going to pick Max up? What am I going to say to the team? How am going to lift their spirits?’
“I think I was actually connected to the Sky commentators, which is always an interesting experience, and they asked me how it was looking.
“I said ‘Well, I think we’re gonna need something from the racing gods to turn this around’ and then Nicholas Latifi turned up so I didn’t realise I had a direct line.”