Michael Masi

Michael Masi Removed From His Role As Race Director

by Martin Blessing

With ever growing uncertainty over the future of current Formula 1 race director, Michael Masi, the FIA have formally announced he won’t be continuing in the position.

In a week when we’re expecting a lot of shake-ups to occur as a result of the unforgettable 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a key decision has been made about the man at the centre of it all. Michael Masi made some extremely questionable decisions during the closing stages of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The impact of such decisions, was highly consequential.

Seven time world champion Lewis Hamilton, was on course to secure an eighth drivers title, having led the majority of the race. Owing to a late safety car, brought about by Nicholas Latifi crashing out, Max Verstappen took an opportunity to pit for fresher tyres. Hamilton, opting to stay out, still led the race. There were a number of lapped cars inbetween Hamilton and Verstappen, meaning there would still be some traffic for Verstappen to contend with, should racing conditions have continued. It first appeared, that the race would finish under a safety car. However, broadcasted radio messages between Red Bull, Mercedes and Masi were pushing his decision making process.

Controversy

It appeared that the lapped cars would remain in their current positions when the race restarted. Then, in an unexpected twist, the lapped cars were suddenly allowed to unlap themselves. However, not all of them. One of the contentious decisions made by Masi, was to only allow the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to break free from the pack. Confusingly, the lapped cars behind Verstappen, were not. Mercedes immediately feared the worst, as they knew Verstappen was on a fresher compound of tyre, with one racing lap remaining. The inevitable happened and Verstappen took his first drivers championship.

An inquest was immediately demanded in to the events that occurred that day. Namely, how Michael Masi not only applied to rulings of lapped cars incorrectly, but was he coerced in to changing his mind about restarting the race at all? These are findings we are still yet to hear confirmation from. But the sudden, erratic nature of his decision making process during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, were questionable to say the least.

The FIA have now taken this decision to move forward from the events of that day and start the new season afresh. The statement reads;

Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three years as Formula 1 race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem

FIA President, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, goes on to indicate further changes to improve the refereeing on race day, with a host of new-age methods to ensure accurate decision making can take place. A ‘Virtual Race Control Room’ will be created, to help assist with on-track decisions. It will be based in the FIA offices, away from the track and likens itself to the VAR (Video Assistance Referee) concept in football. Radio communication between teams and the race director, will also no longer be broadcasted. There is also a small caveat, relating to rules around unlapping procedures. These are to be ‘reassessed’ before the forthcoming season.

What’s clear, is that the FIA are trying to start with a clean bill of health from the events that unfolded in Abu Dhabi. No longer do they want controversy to shroud the sport and allegations of corruption. We do hope the Masi’s removal and improvements in refereeing tools, will improve the integrity of the sport. For now, only time will tell.

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