Ross Brawn defends FIA stewards over Saudi Arabian Grand Prix decisions

Michael Masi’s negotiations with Red Bull have come under fire but Brawn insists the race director dealt with the situation ‘pragmatically’

Jamie Braidwood
Tuesday 07 December 2021 16:05
Verstappen and Hamilton go into F1 season finale level on points

Formula One chief Ross Brawn has defended Michael Masi’s handling of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after the race director came under criticism from Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

After a chaotic race, Horner claimed that F1 had been missing the experience of Masi’s late predecessor Charlie Whiting and also said that the race director’s conversation with Red Bull, which attracted attention after it was broadcast on TV, was like being at “local market”.

The first-ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was hit by two red-flag stoppages and marred by controversial incidents involving title protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

After Verstappen at one point gained an off-track advantage in his battle with Hamilton, Masi offered Red Bull the option to give the place back rather than risking further intervention from the stewards.

In explaining his decision-making afterwards, Masi insisted this was a “regular” process and Brawn said the race director had dealt with the situation “pragmatically”.

“I’d like to compliment the FIA and race director Michael Masi in handling well what was an extremely difficult race,” F1 director Brawn said. “I know some people feel some of the decisions were controversial but I don’t.

“The situation you had with Max and Lewis at the restart, when Michael recommended that Max drop behind Esteban [Ocon] and Lewis, was handled well as the alternative was to report him to the stewards and that could have ended up with a time penalty.

“I think Michael dealt with it pragmatically. This type of discussion goes on several times during a race. If a driver gets by someone or defends unfairly, the race director will tell the team to correct the position.

“Some people seem to think Michael was doing a deal. He wasn’t doing a deal. It was simple: you accept the decision of the race director, with a known outcome, or it gets passed to the stewards to handle it.”

Verstappen was handed a five-second penalty for forcing Hamilton wide during the race and was later hit with a 10-second penalty after the race for his role in his collision with Hamilton.

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