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FIA amends controversial lapped cars rule ahead of 2022 season

Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by Harshi Vashee

Formula 1's governing body the FIA has made its first adjustments to the sport's regulations in response to last year's season finale.

The conclusion of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was riddled with controversy over the deployment and use of the safety car.

Whilst the race was neutralised under Safety Car, Race Direction displayed the message lapped cars will not be allowed to unlap themselves. This decision was then reversed to allow a select number of cars between Championship protagonists Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves, thus putting Verstappen who was on fresh soft tyres right behind Hamilton who had been in the lead for most of the race.

Verstappen went on to pass Hamilton on the last lap to become World Champion and immediately after, chaos ensued.

Mercedes launched a number of protests one of which focused on the use of the safety car concerning lapped cars unlapping themselves.

Article 55.13 of the sporting regulations previously read: “If the clerk (Race Director) of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message “LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE” has been sent to all Competitors using the official messaging system, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car.”

Jonathan Wheatley, Red Bull's Sporting Director was able to successfully argue that by strict interpenetration of the rules "Any cars that have been lapped" does not mean "All cars that have been lapped".

Mercedes in turn unsuccessfully argued that Wheatley's interpretation went against the spirit of the regulations but the FIA saw it differently.

In the aftermath, an investigation was made into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the results of which are expected to be presented to the World Motorsport Council.

Before the presentation of those findings, however, the FIA has made an amendment to article 55.13.

Where the regulation previously stated that "Any cars that have been lapped" it now states "All lapped cars".

The results and conclusions of the investigation into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be presented to the World Motorsport Council on Friday the 18th at the season opener in Bahrain.


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