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FIA replaces Michael Masi as F1 race director

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Michael Masi
Michael Masi. Photo/New York Times

The goose is cooked for Michael Masi following his removal as Formula One (F1) race director after investigations into the happening at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, FIA states.

Due to his handling of the 2021 finale, Masi was under a lot of fire because of the Safety Car choices that allowed Max Verstappen to pass Lewis Hamilton and win the title in a controversial race.

As part of the FIA’s “move forward for Formula 1 refereeing,” President Mohammed Ben Sulayem disclosed a number of structural changes on Thursday.

One of them is that former DTM race director Niels Wittich and WEC race director Eduardo Freitas will alternate as F1’s race director.

According to Sky Sports, Masi has been offered a new position within the FIA, one dealing with safety.

Herbie Blash, who stepped down as Charlie Whiting’s deputy race director five seasons ago, will return to F1 as a permanent senior advisor to help Wittich and Freitas.

Next week’s test in Barcelona will be the first opportunity for the new race management team to become acquainted with one other.

Michael Masi

Michael Masi is on the hot seat over Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Photo/Michaelkorsoutlet

Direct radio contacts between teams and the race director will be eliminated, in favor of a Virtual Race Control Room (VRC), similar to the VAR used in football.

To be examined by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and given to Formula One’s Commission before the season begins in Bahrain on March 18, the unlapping procedure behind the Safety Car.

What Did Michael Masi Do in Abu Dhabi?

When Max Verstappen won the Formula One world championship two months ago, many people questioned Masi’s decision-making. Verstappen, a 24-year-old Dutchman, was crowned the Formula One world champion.

The 2021 championship were altered by Masi’s controversial late-race use of the Safety Car, which occurred on the 12th of December in Abu Dhabi.

To give second-placed Verstappen a fighting chance to beat Hamilton on the penultimate lap, the Australian race director, who has been in charge of F1 since 2019, only allowed lapped cars between Hamilton and his teammate through the Safety Car.

The safety car was brought out with five circuits to go in the race after an incident involving Nicholas Latifi.

This meant that Hamilton had a commanding lead over the rest of the field, with only Red Bull’s Verstappen in third place to contend with.

Verstappen was able to reduce the gap on Hamilton after Masi instructed the lapped cars to let go of each other.

The Dutchman passed Hamilton on the final lap after switching to fresh tyres.

Many people believe that Masi broke the rules and allowed the vehicles to pass because he caved in to pressure from Horner and sports director Jonathan Wheatley.

Masi and Wheatley are heard and seen discussing Red Bull’s demands. This indicates that the race director is responding to Red Bull’s requests in some way.

According to reports, Wheatley provides Masi advice about avoiding being passed by slower-moving vehicles, as Red Bull is desperate for a last-lap battle.

It is after Masi has seen Wheatley’s communication that he chooses to tell the five lapped vehicles to avoid one another.

Michael Masi

Michael Masi. Photo/Autosport

An inquiry from Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff led to Masi repeating what Wheatley had said to him in the prior message.

In the video, Wheatley is heard telling Masi, “Those lapped cars; you don’t need to let them go right the way around and catch up with the back of the pack. You only need to let them go, and then we’ve got a motor race on our hands.”

Masi responds by saying “understood” and gives an order for the cars to be removed.

When Wolff protests this decision, Masi counters him saying “’Toto, it’s called a motor race, OK?”

The video has received a lot of attention on social media, but it’s not a new concept. Formula One released it four days after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but it has only just become viral as a result of the hashtag #F1xed.

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