FIA removes Michael Masi as race director after Abu Dhabi Grand Prix controversy

Masi played a decisive role in the controversy that marred the climax of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December

Dan Austin
Thursday 17 February 2022 14:31
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<p>Michael Masi has been ousted as F1’s race director </p>

Michael Masi has been ousted as F1’s race director

Michael Masi has been removed as Formula 1 race director, the FIA have confirmed.

Masi played a decisive role in the controversy that marred the climax of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December, with his decisions ultimately handing the F1 world title to Max Verstappen of Red Bull.

His call to allow selected backmarkers to unlap themselves behind race leader Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen ahead of the final lap came in for heavy criticism, particularly from Mercedes and team principal Toto Wolff, with the sport’s governing body now confirming a switch ahead of the new campaign.

The race director role will now be shared between Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich and be assisted by Herbie Blash with other changes over how much communication teams can have with them during races also coming into force.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem confirmed the changes in a video released on Thursday.

“I would like to inform you that a new race management team will be put in place starting in Barcelona for the test session next week,” he said.

“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.”

German Wittich is a former DTM race director, while Freitas of Portugal moves across from the World Endurance Championship. Ben Sulayem also announced the creation of a VAR-like system for Formula 1, which a virtual race control room supporting on-track officials in their decision-making.

“A virtual race control room will be created. Like VAR in football, it will be positioned in one of the FIA offices as a backup outside the circuit. It will help to apply the sporting regulations using the most modern technological tools.”

Moreover, Ben Sulayem confirmed that teams will still be able to ask questions of the race director, but will not be able to try and influence his decision-making. “It will still be possible to ask questions to the race director using non-intrusive” methods, he said, having also confirmed that conversations between team principals and the race director will no longer be broadcast.

The first test of the F1 pre-season gets underway in Barcelona 23 February, before the new season starts with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir International Circuit on the weekend of 18 March.

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