Sebastian Vettel hopes FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi will continue in his role in 2022 despite coming under heavy criticism over his handling of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the end of last year.
Masi took over as F1 race director after the sudden death of long-time position holder Charlie Whiting before the start of the 2019 season. The events of last year’s championship-deciding race thrust Masi into the spotlight following his decision to restart the race with one lap remaining after selectively allowing only the five lapped cars between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to rejoin the lead lap.
While the handling of the race is being examined by the FIA, Vettel expressed his hopes that Masi will stay on as race director for the upcoming season.
“With Michael, I think it’s just been a pity,” he said at the launch of Aston Martin’s new F1 car today. “There’s two sorts of interests clashing – one is the sport and the other one is the show. For me, obviously, I don’t care so much about the show, because you’re involved and look at it as a sport and from a competitive point of view.
“It’s not the easiest sometimes to be in the shoes of the referee or Michael’s shoes, but I think he’s done a great job, especially after filling in after Charlie passed away so suddenly. He really has been very, very focussed and determined to do a good job.
“So I don’t know either what’s his future, but I hope he sticks around because I think overall he did a very, very good job. I think there’s a lot of controversy for the last race, but there shouldn’t be. I think if you look at the bigger picture, he’s done really well.”
However Vettel believes that the sport must emphasise fair competition and needs to avoid the temptation to create more exciting track action through how it choose to enforce its rules.
“I think the main thing is that we focus on the sport and not so much on the show,” he explained. “I think last year, obviously, it was always going to be a great final or a great last race because there was one winner and one loser. Ideally, you have two winners, but that’s not how any sport is designed, so it wasn’t going to work.
“Obviously I was in the race and wondering why we were not released earlier in order to get the race started again, but I guess there’s a protocol and rules. I think the main thing is that, going forwards, there’s clarity what’s happening in these other situations and no questions asked anymore.”
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