Michael Masi "acted in good faith and to the best of his knowledge" and was "under immense pressure" from Mercedes and Red Bull, the FIA has said after Formula One's governing body finally published its report into last season's controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen took the title from Lewis Hamilton's grasp after Masi, removed as race director last month, allowed only five drivers to un-lap themselves in the closing stages of the season finale.
The FIA described Masi’s action as a “human error” before concluding that the results of the race can no longer be changed, effectively reaffirming Red Bull’s Verstappen as the 2021 world champion.
The FIA delivered its verdict on the eve of the new campaign in Bahrain and 97 days after the contentious race.
In a statement, the FIA said: “The race director called the safety car back into the pit lane without it having completed an additional lap as required by the Formula One sporting regulations (article 48.12).
“It was apparent from the analysis that there could be different interpretations of article 48.12 and article 48.13 of the Formula One sporting regulations, and that this likely contributed to the applied procedure.
“It was also considered that the decisions regarding the safety car at the end of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix likely took into account previous discussions that made clear the Formula One stakeholders (FIA, Formula One, teams and drivers) preference to end races under green flag racing conditions, rather than behind a safety car, when safe to do so.
“In combination with the objective to finish under green flag racing conditions applied throughout the 2021 season, the report finds that the race director was acting in good faith and to the best of his knowledge given the difficult circumstances, particularly acknowledging the significant time constraints for decisions to be made and the immense pressure being applied by the teams.
“The results of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the FIA Formula One World Championship are valid, final and cannot now be changed.
“The process of identifying lapped cars has up until now been a manual one and human error led to the fact that not all cars were allowed to un-lap themselves.”