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FIA adjust Safety Car rules after controversial Abu Dhabi title decider

Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the 2021 world title in contentious circumstances, but changes have been made to the regulations to avoid a repeat scenario going forward.

Further adjustments have been applied to Formula 1's Sporting Regulations, including the Safety Car rules, ahead of the 2022 season. It comes in the wake of last year's contentious season finale in Abu Dhabi, where a late Safety Car period - and the way in which the restart process was handled - had a direct impact on the outcome of the World Championship. After Nicholas Latifi's crashed Williams was cleared away, then Race Director Michael Masi made the call to let the five cars sitting between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen unlap themselves – but not the others. When the race restarted for a final lap, Verstappen - who had pitted for fresh tyres - pounced on Hamilton to claim the lead, which he converted into the race win and, with it, a maiden F1 world title. Mercedes were furious and lodged two post-race protests with the stewards, including one specifically about unlapped cars and the Safety Car procedures, but the stewards ultimately dismissed both.

What's changed in the regulations for 2022?

In a new set of Sporting Regulations issued by governing body the FIA on Tuesday, one of many tweaks includes a change to a single word in Article 55.13, which centres around backmarkers and the unlapping process behind the Safety Car. It has now been made clear that "all" lapped cars must unlap themselves before a race restart, replacing the previous wording of "any" – Red Bull having argued amid Mercedes' protest in Abu Dhabi that "any" doesn't necessarily mean "all". "If the clerk 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, all cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the Safety Car," reads the amended paragraph. The FIA's latest regulation tweaks follow on from previously announced changes to the Safety Car restart procedure .

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