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Damon Hill questions decision to axe Michael Masi ahead of 2022 F1 season

Masi was removed as race director after the controversial end to the 2021 Formula 1 season

Harry Latham-Coyle
Monday 07 March 2022 11:51 GMT
<p>Damon Hill wonders if the removal of Michael Masi was necessary </p>

Damon Hill wonders if the removal of Michael Masi was necessary

Damon Hill has questioned the decision to remove Michael Masi as Formula 1 race director.

Masi’s removal came as part of wider changes made by the FIA after their investigation into the controversial ending to the 2021 F1 season.

The Australian’s role at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was widely criticised for going against precedent, with the race director allowing lapped cars to unlap themselves and set up Max Verstappen for a world title-winning move on rival Lewis Hamilton on the final lap.

There was thus significant public pressure on the FIA to move on from Masi, who will be replaced by Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich.

1996 world champion Hill has suggested that Masi could perhaps have remained in post, believing the 44-year-old not to be the problem.

“Was [Michael Masi] necessarily sacrificed?” Hill asked on the F1 Nation podcast. “I feel sorry for the guy and we’ve had drivers say so [as well]. They’ve come out and said he did a good job in difficult circumstances.

“I personally think that the situation and the structure he was expected to operate in was the problem.

“I’m not saying it was right what happened [in Abu Dhabi], but we could see clearly during the season that confusion was being thrown into decision making and pressure by some of the team bosses. There was also the pressure of those conversations being broadcast.

“If they fix all that, then I’m not sure they needed to get rid of Michael [Masi].”

Masi is expected to be reassigned elsewhere within the FIA.

Newcomers Freitas and Wittich, who previously served as race directors in other FIA-operated motorsports, will be assisted by Herbie Blash, who returns to Formula 1.

The 73-year-old was the long-time deputy to Masi’s predecessor Charlie Whiting.

As part of a number of changes , teams will no longer have direct radio contact to the race director.

Both Mercedes’ Toto Wolff and Christian Horner of Red Bull were accused of attempting to influence Masi during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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