Johnny Herbert has lashed out at the way FIA Race Director Michael Masi handled the ending of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, labelling his decision-making as "totally unfair".
Masi made the call to withdraw the Safety Car at the end of the penultimate lap of the title decider, leaving Max Verstappen, who had taken advantage of the situation to change tyres, able to attack and pass Lewis Hamilton for the win and the title.
The contention lies in Masi's decision to only allow five of the eight lapped cars to unlap themselves, with the exact wording of the rulebook suggesting that the Safety Car should have stayed on track for an extra lap. This would have meant the race ending behind the Safety Car, giving Hamilton the title.
But with events unfolding the way they did, Herbert weighed in on the subject as Sky Sports F1 held a round-table debate on Thursday.
"I think that the biggest issue that we've got is the decision that was made was totally wrong," Herbert said.
"Yes, he [Masi] was under pressure but that is the position that he's been in.
"We've seen the people that have been there before, Charlie Whiting for example, where they've been able to deal with that pressure that's going on. That's part and parcel of what Formula 1 is all about."
"You can't just change the rules"
After the race, the stewards ruled that Masi had done nothing wrong, with a caveat of the Sporting Regulations allowing the Race Director to control the Safety Car as deemed fit.
With Masi trying to get the race to end under green flag conditions, rather than trundling behind the Safety Car, he invoked that caveat – a decision Herbert said was completely unfair towards Hamilton, who hadn't pitted under the Safety Car.
"When you're there to make things fair, you don't twist the rules that you think is actually going to benefit Formula 1 like Michael Masi said at the end about, 'We wanted to go racing'," Herbert said.
"You don't go racing after Sir Lewis Hamilton had done one of the best races that he had done all season, and then you take that away from him because you've given the advantage to Max, who had done the right call on the pit-stop putting those Soft tyres on.
"You don't then change everything with the rules to allow the race to go green for that one lap when it's totally unfair.
"The result we got at the end of it, which was very unfortunate, was totally wrong."