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New FIA advisor gives his take on Abu Dhabi controversy

Herbie Blash, a veteran of overseeing races while working as Charlie Whiting's second-in-command, has revealed how he would have handled the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP final laps.

Herbie Blash has offered some insight into how he might have chosen to handle the final laps of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, had he had any say in the matter. Blash is a well-known veteran of race direction, having worked as former Race Director Charlie Whiting's right-hand man for more than 20 years. Blash stepped down from his long-term role as Deputy Race Director at the end of 2016, but his experience and wisdom will come back into play during 2022, as he has been appointed as a permanent advisor to the two new full-time Race Directors Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, as they alternate weekends through the year. As Blash returns to a position with authority over race management in 2022, he has hinted that he would have chosen to stop the race when Nicholas Latifi crashed on Lap 53/58 of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, rather than deploying the Safety Car as Race Director Michael Masi chose to do.

What would Blash have done in Masi's place?

While Masi made the call to deploy the Safety Car, this allowed second-placed Max Verstappen to pit for fresh tyres and set himself up strongly for a restart. The restart did not look likely as the laps ticked by under the Safety Car, only for Masi to make the call for unlapped cars to unlap themselves. Almost immediately, Masi ordered the withdrawal of the Safety Car, allowing for a single racing lap that saw the title swing away from Hamilton and towards Verstappen. Speaking to veteran journalist Peter Windsor on his YouTube channel, Blash revealed that he had been watching the dramatic and contentious Abu Dhabi finale in a very relaxed state of mind – in stark contrast to the intense pressure Masi had been under in the final minutes of the race. "I was actually in Barbados watching with some friends and under no pressure at all when I saw the situation with the shunted car (Latifi)," he smiled. As for what he might have done in Masi's position, Blash revealed a thought had come to mind while watching. "[It would have been] ideal to stop the race and have a fantastic sprint race," he said. "Would I have done that if I had been in Abu Dhabi? I don't know. Sitting there with friends, that's exactly what I said. But Michael was under huge pressure." Blash summed up: "I felt very sorry for Michael and for Lewis."

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