FIA will review F1 finale after controversy ‘tarnished image of the championship’

F1 Abu Dhabi review
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The motorsports governing body for Formula One said Wednesday it will conduct “a detailed analysis” and review of the wild ending at the f1 season finale that decided the championship in favor of Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.

The FIA said Sunday’s title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had created a controversy that is “tarnishing the image of the championship.”

Verstappen claimed his first world title when he passed Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes on the final lap. He was given the opportunity after a key decision by race director Michael Masi.

Hamilton, who received knighthood Wednesday, had led 51 of the 58 laps until a crash by Nicholas Latifi brought out the safety car with five laps remaining. Verstappen stopped under yellow for a fresh set of tires, and Masi flipped his decision and let the drivers separating Verstappen from Hamilton pass the safety car under yellow.

The race resumed with one lap remaining and Verstappen restarting second behind Hamilton. He passed Hamilton in the fifth turn and won his first title.

Mercedes filed two appeals that were dismissed and now has asked for a further review from the International Court of Appeal. Verstappen is set to receive his championship trophy Thursday night.

The FIA delivered a report on the incident Wednesday to the World Motor Sport Council in Paris, then said in a later statement the finish “notably generated significant misunderstanding and reactions from Formula One teams, drivers and fans.” It said the argument “is currently tarnishing the image of the championship and the due celebration” of Verstappen and constructors’ title winner Mercedes.

The review will be to “draw any lessons from this situation and clarity to be provided to the participants, media, and fans about the current regulations.”

“It is not only Formula 1 that may benefit from this analysis, but also more generally all the other FIA circuit championships,” the FIA said.

Verstappen, meanwhile, said Wednesday he feels “a bit sorry” for Latifi because of the online abuse he has received since his crash. Latifi, a Canadian who drives for Williams, has faced a barrage of criticism since Sunday that was exacerbated when Verstappen’s boss, Christian Horner, joked he’d give Latifi a lifetime supply of Red Bull for the race-altering crash.

Latifi has apologized for influencing the outcome and said he made a mistake.

“I think this is very unfair. Every driver tries to do their best,” Verstappen said. “I think nobody crashes on purpose. I feel very sorry for Nicholas. I think what is important for him is just to turn off your phone and don’t listen to it.”

Horner said it was time for the controversy to end. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff texted his congratulations to both Verstappen and Horner, the Red Bull winners said, and Horner was ready to move on.

When asked by The Associated Press if he would feel differently if it had been Verstappen who had a nearly 12-second lead wiped out and then lost the championship, Horner said a number of variables out of Red Bull’s control came into play that decided the race.

“We didn’t ask Nicholas Latifi to crash, that happens, and that’s the risk that you take,” Horner said. “And we found it surprising that Mercedes strategically, you know, they left Lewis out on a set of tires that had to have been close to 40 laps on them. So of course, if the race were to restart, he was going to be vulnerable.

“Strategically, that was a mistake. I think we made the right strategy call, and as the following car on a track that isn’t easy to overtake, Max still had to make that pass. And he did it,” he said. “A safety car caused by Williams gave us an opportunity to throw something strategically at those last five laps and it paid off.”

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”