Lewis Hamilton may have lost the 2021 F1 world title after Nicholas Latifi’s brakes caught fire in the immediate aftermath of his crash at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. That’s the verdict of F1 pundit Karun Chandhok who has claimed FIA race director Michael Masi was “screwed over” by the fire as it took marshals longer to clear up the wreckage. It meant the safety car had to be left out “longer than originally planned”, creating confusion around whether the lapped cars could overtake Hamilton.
Chandhok added the delay also meant the race could no longer be red-flagged as rules around the minimum restart time had been exceeded.
Speaking to Express Sport, he said: “I have come back this year and had a few conversions and phone calls with people.
“I think what happened was Latifi crashed and Masi had a choice, at that point you do a safety car or red flag.
“He looked at the incident and thought, ‘that should be relatively quick to clear up’.
READ MORE: FIA confirm Masi may be sacked after Hamilton and Mercedes complaints
“That, therefore, left Michael in a position of, ‘ah I’ve committed to this part of the safety car, now this has happened we have got to leave the safety car out for longer than I originally planned’.
“He couldn’t have red-flagged it at that point, because as per the procedure of the red flag you have to do an out-lap as well as a timed lap.
“So if he had red-flagged it, we wouldn’t have had a restart.”
As the safety car pulled in with one lap to go, Verstappen was on a set of the brand new soft tyres while Hamilton had medium tyres which had already managed over 40 laps.
Hamilton held on for just five corners before Verstappen took the lead at turn five en-route to his first title.
After the race, Latifi spoke openly on social media about receiving “death threats” and “abuse” as a result of the repercussions of his last-minute crash.
He said: “It only takes one incident at the wrong time to have things completely blown out of proportion and bring out the worst in people who are so-called ‘fans’ of the sport.
“What shocked me was the extreme tone of the hate, abuse, and even the death threats I received.
“To the people who don’t understand or don’t agree with that, that’s fine with me.
“You can have your opinion. But to use those opinions to fuel hatred, abuse and threats of violence, not only to me, but to those closest to me as well, tells me these people are not true fans of the sport.”