PARIS — Formula One race director Michael Masi will be replaced following controversy over Abu Dhabi Grand Prix title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December last year, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of FIA, announced Thursday.
After analyzing the wild finale at the season finale, the Motorsports governing body made its decision. Red Bull driver Max Vertappen won his first World title after he overtook Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton in the final lap. Masi, 44 years old, will continue to be with the FIA in an undetermined capacity.
Ben Sulayem stated in a statement that a new race management team would be established starting in Barcelona (next weeks) for the test session.
He said that Michael Masi, who was Formula 1 race director for three years following Charlie Whiting’s retirement, would be offered a new job at the FIA. “I presented this plan to the World Motor Sport Council members and the Senate, who supported it fully.”
Niels Wittich, Eduardo Freitas, and Herbie Blash will alternately serve as race directors, Ben Sulayem stated.
After Masi’s key decision, the Abu Dhabi result caused deep confusion and seething vitriol in some quarters. The FIA stated that the sport’s image was now tarnished.
Hamilton led comfortably until Nicholas Latifi crashed, bringing out the safety car after five laps. Verstappen was stopped under yellow to get a new set of tires. Masi reversed his decision and allowed the drivers who separated Verstappen and Hamilton to pass the safety car.
Verstappen started second behind Hamilton, and on faster new tires, he sped past Hamilton in turn five.
Mercedes lost both protests about the race’s ending.
Hamilton was devastated that he had missed out on the record eighth F1 title, which would have allowed him to surpass Michael Schumacher.
Masi was widely criticized. However, he was also in a difficult situation during the race. Red Bull and Mercedes were able to speak directly with Masi in an instant of extreme pressure. It was questioned if F1 was becoming more of a TV program than a sport.
This is the end of that debate.
Ben Sulayem stated that direct radio communications during race broadcasts live by all TVs will be removed to protect race director from pressure and allow him take peaceful decisions.” “It will still allow you to ask questions to race director according to a clearly defined and non-intrusive process.”
The structural changes will see the creation of a virtual race control room in soccer-style. Safety cars will also be unlapped before the race in Bahrain, which takes place on March 20.
Ben Sulayem stated that the FIA office will house the device, which is similar to the Video Assistance Referee in football. It will be able to communicate in real time with the FIA F1 Race Director, and help to apply sporting regulations using the latest technological tools.
After the high tensions between Red Bull, Mercedes and teams towards officials that dominated 2021, Ben Sulayem hopes for a more peaceful 2022 season. After receiving death threats, Latifi was even able to hire bodyguards.
“With this plan the FIA opens up the possibility of a new step in Formula 1 refereeing. Ben Sulayem stated that without referees there would be no sport. Respect and support for the referees are the essence of FIA.
These changes were made on the eve Mercedes’ 2022 model year car launch. Hamilton will speak publicly for first time since Abu Dhabi.
Mercedes posted a Thursday photo on Twitter showing Hamilton and George Russell racing in their racing suits.