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FIA removes controversial Formula 1 race director from role

FIA removes controversial Formula 1 race director from role
February 18, 2022
Sport /

International motorsport governing body the FIA has dismissed Michael Masi from his position as Formula One’s Race Director after his role in the controversial finale to last season’s championship-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Masi failed to correctly apply the rules in a late safety car period during the race and had a direct impact on the outcome of both the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the F1 title.

Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) will replace the Australian Masi with two new personnel, Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, to alternate in the role, while introducing a standalone race control unit.

However, the FIA has not published the report of its investigation into what happened in Abu Dhabi and Masi’s role in making decisions that decided the world championship in Max Verstappen’s favour, ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

Explaining the changes, FIA President Mohammed ben Sulayem announced that Masi, who assumed the FIA F1 Director position when former postholder Charlie Whiting died on the eve of the 2019 F1 season, will be "offered a new position within the FIA.”

In addition, as part of a wider restructure of race control aimed at providing a calmer environment, direct radio communications between the teams and the race director will no longer be allowed.

In Abu Dhabi, Masi came under pressure from both the Mercedes and Red Bull teams to make decisions in their favour. The huge controversy after the race arose from the fact that he seemed to follow Red Bull's suggestions, to the advantage of their driver Verstappen over Mercedes' Hamilton.

Masi decided that only the lapped cars between race-leading Hamilton and second-placed rival Verstappen should get out of the way after a late-race crash involving Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, allowing the Dutchman who was on fresh tyres, compared to Hamilton's worn ones, to get an easy run at the Brit and pass him on the final lap.

The new race control management team will be in place in time for the first pre-season test in Barcelona on 23rd February, with FIA veteran Herbie Blash assisting Wittich and Freitas as a permanent senior adviser.

Image: Michael Masi. Credit: Shutterstock.

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