Michael Masi axed as Formula One race director after Abu Dhabi GP controversy

Australian pays price for chaotic season finale at Yas Marina Circuit that saw Verstappen crowned champion ahead of Hamilton

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Michael Masi has been dropped as Formula One race director after the controversial Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that saw Max Vertappen pip Lewis Hamilton for the world title.

The news was confirmed by FIA president Mohammed bin Sulayem two months and five days after last season’s finale at Yas Marina Circuit.

Masi's future was thrown into doubt after he altered the safety car procedure to allow for a last lap of racing that cost Mercedes' Hamilton a record eighth title and handed a first to Red Bull's Verstappen.

Masi decided only the lapped cars between race-leading Hamilton and second-placed rival Verstappen had to get out of the way after a late-race crash, allowing Verstappen to pass the Briton on the last lap, which left the British driver saying the race was “manipulated” in Red Bull's favour.

A report into the failings at Abu Dhabi will be published at the season-opening race in Bahrain on March 19.

Masi, offered a new position within the FIA, will be replaced by Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich in a total restructure of race control.

FIA president Bin Sulayem said: “I would like to inform you that a new race management team will be put in place starting in Barcelona for the test session.

“Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will act alternatively as race director, assisted by Herbie Blash as permanent senior adviser.

“Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three years as Formula One race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA.”

Bin Sulayem, elected as president just days after the Abu Dhabi race, also revealed the sport will use a Video Assistant Referee, similar to the one seen in football, and said communication between the pit wall and the race director will no longer be aired live on television.

“With this plan, FIA opens the way for a new step forward in Formula One refereeing,” he added. “Without the referees, there is no sport. Respect and support of the referees is in the essence of the FIA.

“That is why these structural changes are crucial in a context of strong development and the legitimate expectations of drivers, teams, manufacturers, organisers, and, of course, the fans.”

The Emirati, who was elected the FIA's first non-European president, said the changes had been presented at a meeting of the F1 Commission on Monday where they were unanimously supported by the teams and F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali.

Updated: February 17, 2022, 3:05 PM
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