Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: FIA ‘not shy’ of investigating Sergio Perez Monaco crash

Sergio Perez car after crashing in Monaco qualifying
Sergio Perez crashed his Red Bull in Q3 at the Monaco Grand Prix which meant the qualifying session was stopped

Formula 1’s governing body the FIA ​​is prepared to investigate whether Sergio Perez deliberately crashed during Monaco Grand Prix qualifying in May.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem said: “I didn’t have anyone who said we want to investigate it from our side.

“But if there is something to be investigated, we are more than happy. I am not shy or afraid of going into it.”

Ben Sulayem added that he would speak to world champion Max Verstappen about the matter.

Verstappen has not publicly revealed his reasons for refusing an order to let team-mate Perez by for sixth place at Interlagos last Sunday.

But multiple sources have said that the Dutchman believes Perez deliberately crashed on his final qualifying run in Monaco in May, preventing Verstappen from improving and taking a place on the front row of the grid.

As it was, Perez qualified third ahead of Verstappen and went on to win the race after Ferrari made a strategy error with race leader Charles Leclerc.

On Thursday, Perez described the claim as “speculation” and “rumours”, adding: “That rumor is wrong.”

F1 rules forbid unsporting actions, and leave the FIA ​​a range of options in terms of punishment if it discovers them.

Red Bull are considered unlikely to volunteer any information on the matter as it would further disrupt team harmony, which has already been badly affected by the row in Brazil.

The Abu Dhabi report

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen battle at 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Verstappen passed Hamilton on the last lap in Abu Dhabi to take his maiden world title amid huge controversy last season

Ben Sulayem became FIA ​​president a matter of days after former race director Michael Masi failed to apply the rules correctly in last year’s title decider in Abu Dhabi, after which Lewis Hamilton lost the race win and the world title to Verstappen.

The FIA later fired Masi and issued a report into the race that was published at the start of this season.

There have been criticisms that the report did not satisfactorily address what went wrong in Abu Dhabi.

Ben Sulayem said: “Maybe the report was not enough but it was a good attempt at the transparency and now you see every time we have an issue, transparency.”

He pointed to the controversy at the Japanese Grand Prix over the deployment of a recovery vehicle on track in heavy rain and poor visibility, and his intervention to address the dangerous “bouncing” or porpoising of some cars earlier this year that was affecting driver health.

Japan led to a report that said only one of the two race directors who have been rotating the role this year would fill the position until the end of the season.

And the FIA ​​introduced a measurement for the level of bouncing as well as other rule changes aimed at addressing it before the second half of the season.

“The issue we had [in Japan]we did a thorough report and it was on the FIA ​​website before the next race after consultation,” Ben Sulayem said.

“Even porpoising, I called 20 drivers. I called 10 team principals. We listened to them and came up with the amendment that was effected in Belgium.”

Addressing issues with race control

Suzuka recovery vehicle
The FIA ​​has said it made mistakes in the deployment of a recovery vehicle on track during the Japanese Grand Prix in October

There has been widespread dissatisfaction within F1 this year about the way the governing body has administered the sport.

And the actions of race directors Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas have been under scrutiny after a series of incidents and interventions that have angered drivers and teams.

Ben Sulayem said that he was in a “restructuring” process.

He said he had instigated a program aimed at improving F1 race direction that was put in place after Abu Dhabi.

He said “phase one” of this program would finish “soon – hopefully at the beginning of next year we will have something if not before”.

He insisted his relationship with the drivers was good, and said the same about that with F1, after repeated claims from insiders that the commercial rights holder was unhappy with the FIA’s actions this season.

“It’s a marriage,” Ben Sulayem said. “It’s going to last, and strongly.”

Pointing to his decision to delay F1’s plan to increase the number of ‘sprint’ events to six from three next year, he said: “People assumed when I said about the three sprint races that there was a split. I laughed about it.”

Sources have said Ben Sulayem initially asked for extra funding for the FIA ​​from F1 in return for his agreement. But he said he had merely wanted to investigate whether he would impose an extra load on FIA officials.

“People don’t understand sometimes the pressure that goes into the officials of the FIA,” he said.

That process took six months, and Ben Sulaymen said: “I am in a very good professional and personal relationship [with F1].”

Meanwhile, a meeting of the F1 Commission on Friday agreed to “undertake a comprehensive review of the sporting regulations for 2024”.

It also started a study aimed at reducing the spray from cars in wet weather, potentially with the use of removable wheel arches that would be fitted in extreme conditions.

The cost cap and other matters

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem
Ben Sulaymen’s first year as FIA president has been dogged by conflict with F1 teams and drivers

In the wake of criticism of the FIA’s handling of Red Bull’s breaching of the budget cap last season, Ben Sulaymen said a “big review” was being undertaken into what had happened this season.

“If you don’t have the manpower to police it, what is the use of having this regulation?” he said.

“We learned a lot. Who knows in the first year what is going to be the outcome? The other teams will say we have been light on them, some of them want them to be hanged. Where do you draw [the line]? Do we want to get rid of them or straighten up and not do it?

“What we did in September/October, it should be earlier, but as the first year we learned a lot from it and we are still learning.

Ben Sulaymen’s appointment of former Mercedes employee Shaila-Ann Rao as the FIA’s interim secretary general for sport has angered Red Bull this year.

Sources have told BBC Sport that Rao will lose his position in the coming days.

Ben Sulayem did not directly address a question on her future but said: “Her position is interim secretary general. What does interim mean? Shaila-Ann has been supportive a lot to me and I see her intelligence on big decisions. I will defend my people.”

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