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FIA set deadline for Abu Dhabi enquiry as Lewis Hamilton quit threat grows

Just minutes earlier, Hamilton appeared to be cruising towards an unprecedented eighth championship crown when Williams driver Nicholas Latifi careered off the track, with a safety car imminently being deployed.

Verstappen then took the gamble of pitting for fresh tyres, but it appeared a futile move with the safety vehicle set to lead the cars to the chequered flag.

However, it was then that race director Michael Masi appeared to bow to pressure from Christian Horner, altering his initial instructions to speed up the procedure and ensure a final lap shootout between the Mercedes man and Verstappen.

And inevitably with his new tyres, the Dutchman performed the overtake he needed to win his first world crown, sparking mass celebrations from Red Bull team members.

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Mercedes duly launched two separate protests over the procedure, but both were dismissed, and despite initially serving notice of intent to appeal, CEO Toto Wolff later confirmed, with some reluctance, that they would not be pursuing that course of action.

Amidst the backlash, Masi has faced calls to resign while Hamilton, said by Wolff to be “disillusioned” at what transpired, is yet to address rumours he is considering retirement.

What prompted Wolff and co to decline their appeal option was a promise from the FIA that they would hold a full enquiry into events at the Yas Marina, vowing to liaise with all teams over their conclusions. Hamilton’s F1 future is also reported to rest on the outcome.

Sky Sports has reported the formal investigative side of the inquiry began on Monday, with Masi, the stewards, drivers and team representatives involved all set to be interviewed.

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Peter Bayer, the FIA’s secretary general of motor sport, is leading the process, while Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who replaced Jean Todt as FIA president just five days after the race in Abu Dhabi, is also involved.

An FIA spokesperson said the process will be “thorough, objective and transparent,” with the organisation aiming to complete the process in time for the next World Motor Sport Council meeting on February 3.

That means that Hamilton, 37, is set to stew over his future until the brink of the 2022 season, with pre-season testing set to start in Spain on February 23.

The first race of the new season, which will consist of a record high 23 races, will take place in Bahrain on March 20.

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