Australian Michael Masi has been replaced as Formula 1 race director and offered a new role within the sport’s governing body, FIA, in the wake of the title-deciding safety car controversy in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
- Michael Masi attracted scrutiny for the way he handled last year’s season-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
- The Australian will no longer be race director
- F1 has also decided not to broadcast radio chat from teams live to air in the upcoming season
Masi’s former job is to be split between Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas as part of a restructuring unveiled by the FIA’s president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
Masi’s future was thrown into doubt after he altered the safety car procedure to allow for a last lap of racing that cost Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton a record eighth title and handed a first to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
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 February 23, with FIA veteran Herbie Blash assisting Wittich and Freitas as a permanent senior adviser.
The changes were unveiled by Ben Sulayem in a speech posted online.
They include the setting up of a virtual race control room, operating in a similar way to football’s VAR.
Unlapping procedures behind the safety car will also be reassessed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the next F1 Commission before the start of the season, while direct radio communications during the race, broadcast live on TV, will be removed.
Mr Sulayem said they were being removed from the broadcast due to them placing undue pressure on the race director.
During the final race of the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi, both Red Bull team boss Christian Horner and Mercedes’ Toto Wolff were captured speaking to Masi about the late race safety car.
Horner first spoke to Masi, asking why the lapped cars weren’t being allowed through.
“Because, Christian, just give me a second. My big one here is to get this incident clear,” Masi responded but then infamously reversed his decision, allowing Verstappen to restart the race on the back of Hamilton, effectively gifting him his maiden drivers’ championship.
The decision earned the ire of Wolff who berated the Australian race director: “You need to reinstate the lap before, that’s not right,” Wolff demanded.
It fell on deaf ears but Mercedes protested the result before ultimately withdrawing their appeal.
But the damage it seems was done for Masi and Mr Sulayem said the changes were presented and approved at a meeting of the F1 Commission.