Mercedes mastermind Toto Wolff will sit down with new FIA chief Mohammed Ben Sulayem, and Michael Masi’s future as F1 race director will be high on his agenda amid Lewis Hamilton retirement rumours
Not even a month into his new role as FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem will meet Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff on Friday to discuss last season’s contentious Formula 1 title decider.
And it’s anticipated the future of Michael Masi will figure prominently after the F1 race director made a crucial call that led to Max Verstappen denying Lewis Hamilton a record-breaking eighth world title in Abu Dhabi.
Mercedes’ talismanic talent has fallen silent since the ‘Decider in the Desert’ and continues to be linked with retirement following that controversial end to the 2021 campaign.
Wolff has described Hamilton as feeling “disillusioned” with F1, and BBC Sport reported one senior source said Mercedes only dropped their Abu Dhabi appeal on the basis that Masi would be sacked.
The most dominant manufacturer in modern racing denied any such quid pro quo, however, and said they ended the appeal having been assured the case would be “treated seriously and appropriate action would be taken.”
The Daily Mail quoted one source regarding Sulayem’s immediate priorities as he gets to work in the role: “The Abu Dhabi matter is the first issue on the new president’s agenda. He wants to come up with a response.
“The deadline is the World Motor Sport Council meeting on February 3 — but there may be news before then, such is the urgency of this.”
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Masi made headlines after deciding to unlap all cars that separated Verstappen and Hamilton for a final-lap decider at the Yas Marina Circuit, where a safety car disrupted the latter’s 11-second lead with five laps to go.
Red Bull chief Christian Horner and Mercedes counterpart Wolff were each in communication with the Sydney-born shot-caller prior to that decision.
Wolff, 50, immediately showed his dissatisfaction with the call, and those tensions only worsened after Verstappen took advantage of his fresh tyres to pip Hamilton to the title.
It’s understood Mercedes also called for Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s head of single-seater technical matters, to be relieved of his duties before the 2022 season gets underway.
Former rally driver Sulayem was appointed FIA overseer in December and replaced predecessor Jean Todt, who served in the role for more than a decade.
Sulayem beat British candidate Graham Stoker in the ballot after receiving a little more than 60 per cent of votes from FIA Member Clubs.
Many fans and pundits alike are eager to see Hamilton serve the final two years of his Mercedes contract, which is due to expire at the end of the 2023 season.
Mercedes have done their bit to encourage the belief Hamilton will race on after recently publishing a picture of their driver on Twitter alongside the caption: “Adversity causes some to break; others to break records.”
However, there appears a risk of the seven-time title-winning star losing further faith in the sport if Masi is retained in such a crucial, decision-making role moving forward.
The 2022 season is due to get underway with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20, and it’s understood finding a satisfactory successor to Masi at this stage is the biggest obstacle to the prospect of replacing him.