The highly anticipated investigation will be released just two days before the 2022 season and the Brit has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The most thrilling Formula One campaign in years ended in just as exciting circumstances when last-lap drama saw Max Verstappen overtake Lewis Hamilton to secure his maiden world championship.
While those inside the Red Bull garage rejoiced at their first champion since Sebastian Vettel in 2013, in the garage next door Mercedes were seething at a decision they deemed unfair.
The usually cool, calm and collected Toto Wolff was heard on the radio pleading with race director Michael Masi that the decision was “not right” but his complaints fell on deaf ears.
It was an opinion many neutrals shared and following protests from Mercedes, an FIA investigation into the controversial scenes was launched which began last week.
The FIA confirmed the results of this investigation would be published 48 hours before the opening grand prix of the 2022 season in March and there are many who stand to gain and some who stand to lose. Here are some potential winners and losers of the investigation.
Winner – Lewis Hamilton
The seven-time world champion is never going to be given his eighth world title as a result but a positive outcome would prove the Mercedes driver was unfairly treated.
The investigation is looking at the use of the safety car and if it is suggested that race director Masi deployed the safety car incorrectly then Hamilton fans would have every right to argue he was the rightful 2021 champion.
Hamilton himself has been quiet since the season ended and is reported to be waiting for the results before making his decision as to whether he will race on in 2022 – a threat that could influence the decision in his favour, given his import in the sport.
Loser – Max Verstappen
In the same way Hamilton will not be given the title, Verstappen will not have his taken away but he will not want to have an asterisk forever attached to his 2021 win.
The Dutchman, who often seems unfazed by public perception, is likely to shrug off any result that goes against him but it could forever become a stick to beat him with, especially if this proves to be his only world title.
Loser – Michael Masi
With arguably the most powerful team in the sport angry with him, Michael Masi’s position as race director may prove untenable if the FIA finds he acted incorrectly.
The BBC reports that Mercedes dropped its appeal after agreeing with the FIA that both Masi and FIA head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis would be sacked before the start of the 2022 season.
It is not only Mercedes who are annoyed with the man who has held the position since March 2019.
Earlier in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Red Bull’s Christian Horner complained that Hamilton was not forced to give up the lead having gone off the track in a battle with Verstappen.
The FIA has yet to announce either way as to whether he will stay on but at this moment in time, it looks unlikely.
Winner – the sport
While the ending of the season was a thrilling spectacle, it opened the sport up to criticism.
The final race was billed as a season-defining showdown between Verstappen and Hamilton and drew a large crowd of non-regular F1 watchers thanks to its broadcast on Channel 4 but they would have been confused to see the race end in such a way.
Perhaps the most notable example of such criticism came from Gary Lineker who tweeted it would be similar to a referee deciding a football match should end minutes early with a penalty shootout and one team had to be barefoot.
Imagine Man City and Liverpool going toe to toe for the title. On the last day of the season they meet & City are 3 up with just minutes to go. The referee decides it would be more exciting to have a penalty shootout. What’s more the City players have to be barefooted. That’s @F1
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) December 13, 2021
If the result of the investigation established some firm rules of what happens in certain situations, it will be beneficial to all involved in the sport.
Winner – Mercedes
Mercedes’ qualms did not end with just the way the race ended and the German team has been pushing for the investigation to go much further.
According to Sky Sports reporter Ted Kravitz, Mercedes wants changes to drivers standards as well.
“Mercedes feel 2021 was a pattern of some pretty questionable governance decisions,” he told Sky Sports F1.
“It extends to drivers’ standards as well.
“They want to put in place some new rules about how we go racing, whether some strong-arm driving standards are to be enforced and regulated, that we won’t have all the nonsense we had last year.
“They also want the fact that no team principal will be able to talk and influence the race director during the race.
“It’s really something that needs to happen quite quickly. Nobody can move on until the FIA actually explain the decisions, the rationale and the intent behind them in Abu Dhabi.”