Michael Masi removed as F1 Race director following Abu Dhabi controversy

Masi will no longer be the F1 race director Masi will no longer be the F1 race director
Masi will no longer be the F1 race director | Getty Images

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Abu Dhabi’s controversial end has finally resulted in Michael Masi being removed from his position as the F1 race director

Following an FIA review, the F1 race director Michael Masi has been removed from his role and is likely to be given another position within the FIA.

The Australian race director hit the headlines significantly following the final F1 Grand Prix of the season in Abu Dhabi in December.

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Masi’s decision enabled Max Verstappen to claim his first ever Championship title, becoming the first Dutchman to do so, and denying Lewis Hamilton a record-breaking eighth win.

The president of the FIA Mohammed Ben Sulayem announced that Niels Wittich, former DTM race director, and Eduardo Freitas, WEC race director will act as alternate F1’s race directors, assisted by Herbie Blash as the permanent senior advisor.

As part of the FIA review, a Virtual Race control Room is also said to be under production and communication between teams and the race director will be removed.

In addition, the unlapping procedure behind the safety car is also to be reviewed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the F1 Commission ahead of the 2022’s first race in Bahrain on 18 March.

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What happened in Abu Dhabi to cause this change?

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton came into the final race of the 2021 season on the same number of points with everything to fight for.

Whoever won this race would be crowned the 2021 Champion. Verstappen was fighting for his first ever Championship title while Hamilton was battling to become the first ever person to win eight titles.

Verstappen, right, stole the lead in the final lap from HamiltonVerstappen, right, stole the lead in the final lap from Hamilton
Verstappen, right, stole the lead in the final lap from Hamilton | Getty Images

Nicholas Latifi’s late crash, with just a few laps to go, then meant that not only was the title down to the final race, but it was down to the final lap.

Before restarting the race on the final lap, Masi ordered only the lapped cars between Hamilton and the second-placed Verstappen through as opposed to all of the cars.

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Verstappen, on fresher and softer tyres, was able to shoot pass Hamilton who was on older and harder tyres.

Masi’s actions were subsequently justified by the FIA stewards following Mercedes team appeal but the F1’s governing body then lodged a full review and the results of this review have now culminated in Masi losing his job as the race director.

Communication between Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff and Masi in the final lap then prompted the conversation of whether team bosses should be allowed to interact with the race director.

The review has clearly found that they should not.

What has FIA President Mohamed Ben Sulayem said?

In his proposal, the FIA President said of Michael Masi: “Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three year as Formula 1 race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA.

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“…With this plan, FIA opens the way for a new step forward in Formula 1 referring. Without the referees, there is no sport. Respect and support of the referees is in the essence of the FIA.

That is why these structural changes are crucial in a context of strong development and the legitimate expectations of drivers, teams, manufacturers, organisers, and of course the fans.”

What has been said following the announcement?

The Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto spoke at the launch of Ferrari’s 2022 challenger saying: “It’s not a surprise for us at all, something that has been analysed and discussed with all other teams.

Red Bull celebrate Verstappen’s first ever ChampionshipRed Bull celebrate Verstappen’s first ever Championship
Red Bull celebrate Verstappen’s first ever Championship | Getty Images

“What happened in Abu Dhabi has been over discussed, overanalysted. I think that the fact it took so long shows the complexity of the matter, nothing obvious.

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“It’s very difficult to say everything was wrong, any mistakes or not. Certainly when you’re taking this decision, you’re under pressure in the heat of the action, the pressure is very very high and the communications from the team certainly doesn’t help.

“It was not an obvious decision and a difficult one to take. At ferrari we support the decision of its new chairman and we hope to collaborate for a better future for our racing.”

When is the 2022 Season?

Max Verstappen will begin defending his Championship in Bahrain on 8 March 2022. Sky Sports will continue to show all of the footage from race weekends .

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