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Mistakes were made during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year but to claim the FIA and Formula 1 are corrupt is unfair, according to McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.
A number of fans were left angered by race director Michael Masi’s decision to move only the lapped cars between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in order to create a final lap shootout between the two for the title, with Verstappen – on fresh tires – winning a race Hamilton had dominated. While Brown is unwilling to comment on Masi’s position and decisions during the race, specifically while an investigation is ongoing, he says to view the sport as corrupt rather than having mishandled the event is wrong.
“I think with all controversies in sport, in time as soon as the next season starts, the wounds start to heal,” Brown told select media, including RACER. “I do think the FIA need to come out with a ‘Here’s what happened; Here’s why we think it happened; Here’s what was right; Here’s what was wrong’ – whatever they’re going to come out with in the report and then show they’ve taken action to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“Personal opinion, I don’t think this was a malicious decision. So for those that might have a view of ‘The sport’s corrupt’, etcetera, I don’t agree with that.
“Do I think potentially a different decision could have been made? Yes, probably, but I want to wait to see what the FIA comes out with. But, I don’t think it was malicious and therefore I don’t think it’s corrupt.
“I think we’ve all seen in sport before referees make decisions that people disagree with – sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong. It gets pretty excited and then the season starts and it then becomes a thing that you never forget about, but it was a thing of the past.”
While Hamilton has not spoken publicly since the final race and is reportedly awaiting the outcome of the FIA analysis before committing to racing in 2022, Brown expects the seven-time world champion to return.
“I think he’ll be back,” Brown said. “He’s a racing driver. I think he’s at the top of his game. I’m sure he’s very angry, but I think race car drivers want to race and I think he’s a fighter, and he’ll want to come back and try to win an eighth championship.
“I don’t think he’s ready to retire; this is my own personal opinion, I’ve not talked to him, because once you hang it up, you hang it up. I guess you could come back as some have done, but I don’t think he’s ready to hang it up and I don’t think he’s going to let an incident put him into retirement.
“I don’t know Lewis that well. I wouldn’t be shocked if he stopped, so I don’t think anyone should take for granted he’s coming back. My personal opinion is he’s going to, but I don’t think we should discount or not recognize his frustration and his anger. Maybe he hasn’t made a decision and maybe what he’s doing is taking time to make that decision to make sure, because once that decision is made, that decision is made.
“So, I don’t think we should rule it out or make light of it. I just personally think he still has a burning desire to race and that will ultimately drive his decision. But that’s just one man’s opinion.”