Michael Masi replaced as F1 race director after FIA review of 2021 Abu Dhabi GP final

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem announces that Michael Masi has been removed as F1 race director amongst a string of other changes

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem announces that Michael Masi has been removed as F1 race director amongst a string of other changes

Michael Masi has been replaced as F1 race director following a review into last year’s Abu Dhabi GP, the FIA ​​has confirmed.

Masi had been under intense pressure due to is handling of the 2021 final, namely for the Safety Car decisions that opened the door for Max Verstappen to pass Lewis Hamilton for a controversial race and title win.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem confirmed a number of structural changes as part of a ‘step forward for Formula 1 refereeing’ on Thursday, one being that Niels Wittich, former DTM race director, and Eduardo Freitas, WEC race director, will act alternatively as F1’s race director.

Masi will be offered a new role within the FIA, which Sky Sports understands will be a safety role.

Listen to audio from the team radios which reveals just how late the decision was made to allow the drivers to unlap themselves during the controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi GP.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Listen to audio from the team radios which reveals just how late the decision was made to allow the drivers to unlap themselves during the controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi GP.

Listen to audio from the team radios which reveals just how late the decision was made to allow the drivers to unlap themselves during the controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi GP.

Wittich and Freitas will be assisted by Herbie Blash as the permanent senior advisor, with Blash returning to F1 five seasons after stepping down as deputy race director to the late Charlie Whiting.

The new race management team will be in place from next week’s test in Barcelona.

A Virtual Race Control Room will also be created, likened to football’s VAR, while direct radio communications between teams and the race director will be removed.

The unlapping procedure behind the Safety Car is also to be reviewed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the F1 Commission prior to the season getting under way in Bahrain on March 18.

What happened in Abu Dhabi and why has Masi been replaced?

In the final stages of the Abu Dhabi GP on December 12, Masi handled the late Safety Car period in a way not prescribed by the F1 rules – and the decision had a huge impact on the championship.

The Australian, who has been F1 race director since 2019, ordered only the lapped cars between Hamilton and second-placed Verstappen through under the Safety Car, providing the Dutchman, on fresh tyres, a shot at passing Hamilton – who was on old rubber – on the very final lap.

Verstappen duly passed Hamilton for the race and championship victory.

Max Verstappen passes Lewis Hamilton on the final lap in Abu Dhabi to win the 2021 F1 Championship!

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Max Verstappen passes Lewis Hamilton on the final lap in Abu Dhabi to win the 2021 F1 Championship!

Max Verstappen passes Lewis Hamilton on the final lap in Abu Dhabi to win the 2021 F1 Championship!

“It’s called motor racing, Toto,” Masi told a furious Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff after the race.

While Masi’s actions were justified by the FIA ​​stewards following a Mercedes team appeal, F1’s governing body lodged a full review into the process and admitted F1’s image was being tarnished.

The investigative stage began last month and the FIA ​​spoke to key representatives, including all the drivers, before the F1 Commission meeting on Monday. Both Wolff and Red Bull boss Christian Horner were at that meeting where the Abu Dhabi inquiry was discussed, and Ben Sulayem has now revealed those first changes.

Masi’s removal as race director comes just a day before the launch of Mercedes’ new car and the return of Hamilton with a media interview. Both Mercedes and Hamilton were said to be “disillusioned” with F1 following the events of Abu Dhabi but Masi’s exit may well go some way to healing that relationship.

The FIA’s announcement also coincided with Ferrari’s car launch.

Speaking after the F1-75 car was revealed, team boss Mattia Binotto said: “It’s not a surprise for us at all, something that has been analyzed and discussed with all other teams,”

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

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

“It was not an obvious situation and a difficult decision to take. We need to trust the FIA ​​for its independence and its capacity to take the right decision to move forward. In that respect we can only support. At Ferrari we support the decision of its new chairman and the entire FIA, and we will continue to collaborate to improve the future for our racing.”

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s proposal in full

First, to assist the race director in the decision-making process, a Virtual Race Control Room will be created. Like the Video Assistance Referee (VAR) in football, it will be positioned in one of the FIA ​​Offices as a backup outside the circuit. In real-time connection with the FIA ​​F1 race director, it will help to apply the sporting regulations using the most modern technological tools.

Secondly, direct radio communications during the race, currently broadcast live by all TVs, will be removed in order to protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully. It will still be possible to ask questions to the race director, according to a well-defined and non-intrusive process.

Thirdly, unlapping procedures behind safety car will be reassessed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the next F1 Commission prior to the start of the season.

And finally, I would like to inform you that a new race management team will be put in place starting in Barcelona for the test session.

Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will act alternatively as Race Director, assisted by Herbie Blash as permanent senior advisor.

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.

I presented this complete plan to the members of the World Motor Sport Council and the Senate who gave their full support.

With this plan, FIA opens the way for a new step forward in Formula 1 refereeing. 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, organizers, and of course, the fans.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.