Wolff set for Abu Dhabi storm talks with new FIA president
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is set for talks with new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem over the next 48 hours, with the storm surrounding the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix top of the agenda.
Since taking up the post on December 17 from Jean Todt, Ben Sulayem has walked straight into the fallout from the events at the Yas Marina Circuit five days earlier.
At present, an investigation is underway into the closing few laps of the race and the highly contentious decisions made by FIA race director Michael Masi.
Mercedes initially protested the race result, and while the stewards rejected its claim, the team lodged its intention to appeal only to withdraw late on as a 96-hour deadline approached.
Wolff cited both he and Hamilton had been left “disillusioned” by what had unfolded in Abu Dhabi, with the seven-time champion since withdrawing from social media.
It has been claimed his future is up in the air until the outcome of the FIA investigation being fronted by the FIA’s secretary-general for motorsport, Peter Bayer.
Ben Sulayem, however, is also taking a personal hands-on approach and this week has either met with, or is due to meet, all of the team principals.
It is an opportunity for Ben Sulayem to get to know those at the forefront in the F1 teams, and while there are numerous topics being discussed, their thoughts on what took place in Abu Dhabi and Masi’s role within it, are known to be prominent.
This is particularly the case with regard to Wolff and Mercedes, with the Austrian’s meeting with Ben Sulayem set for Friday, as GPFans understands.
It has been suggested in a report this week by the BBC that Mercedes opted not to appeal in exchange for Masi’s resignation, along with that of the head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis. A claim since denied.
Wolff, however, is almost certain to voice a strong opinion against Masi when he sits down with Ben Sulayem.
On the day [Dec 16] Mercedes opted to withdraw its appeal, Wolff insisted he had no intention of having any kind of discussion with Masi, claiming his decision making had led to “a catastrophic impact” on the championship, and that “robbing him [Hamilton] in the last lap of the race” was “unacceptable”.
At present, it is understood Hamilton’s future, and whether he returns this season at the start of a two-year extension to a contract signed in early July, rests on the outcome of the FIA’s report.
It is believed, however, that Hamilton staying in F1 is not subject to whether Masi is forced to resign.
Wolff has made clear, though, “the right decisions and actions” need to come from the report to ensure there is no repeat of the Abu Dhabi scenario that has tarnished F1 and Verstappen’s title success.
As Wolff remarked a month ago: “I have confidence together, all of us together, the teams, the drivers, the FIA and the sport can revamp the way decisions are being made and make the sport stronger.”
For his first major decision in his role as FIA president, Ben Sulayem is a man under pressure.
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January 13, 2022 at 02:37PM