A recent documentary produced by Canal Plus reveals that Toto Wolff and Christian Horner called FIA president Jean Todt in the minutes that followed the conclusion of F1’s controversial finale in Abu Dhabi in 2021 in a bid to gain the Frenchman’s support for their opposing causes.
The dramatic final round of the 2021 F1 world championship was turned on its head in the closing stages of the race by FIA race director Michael Masi who opted to overrule the normal Safety Car procedure to produce one final lap of racing.
The event had been dominated by Lewis Hamilton who was en route to secure a record eighth world title, but Masi’s management of the Safety Car period allowed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen – who had chosen to bolt on a fresh set of tyres for the one-lap shootout – to snatch the lead of the race from his Mercedes rival halfway through the final lap and power ahead to his maiden world title.
In the recently released documentary ‘La Méthode’ that recounts Todt’s life and times in motorsport, the then still FIA President is seen watching the drama unfold from his home in Paris.
Minutes after the chequered flag, Todt receives a phone call from an irate Wolff who asks Todt to intervene.
“Toto, you must see with the stewards…” says Todt. “I followed everything, but I don’t have the elements to answer you. You must listen to the stewards and understand what happened,” he adds.
Read also: Wolff still can’t get ‘incomprehensible’ Abu Dhabi 2021 off his mind
Wolff’s call is then followed by a call from Horner who likely wanted to make sure, preemptively, that the FIA president would come down on the side of Red Bull in the event of a protest by Mercedes.
“Hi Christian, congratulations so far,” Todt says. “I understand that there are some protests around. Anyway, what a race and congratulations on your strategy, amazing!”
Speaking this week to Italy’s Corriere dela Sera, Todt revisited the fascinating moment and explained his communication with the Mercedes and Red Bull team principals.
“I didn’t do anything, it’s not the role of the president of the FIA,” Todt said.
“Referees must be autonomous. Have you ever heard [FIFA president Gianni] Infantino say ‘Here there was a penalty, and here there was not’.
“In the documentary you can see that I’m watching that race in the country house.
“Horner and Wolff call me and to them I reply: ‘I can’t interfere, it’s the responsibility of the stewards and the race director.’”
The infamous race was the last witnessed by Todt as FIA president, with the Frenchman passing the baton just days later to his successor at the head of the governing body, Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
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