Michael Masi might have been relieved of his race director role following his safety car ruling in Abu Dhabi, but he will still play a part in the FIA’s operation going forward
Image: James Moy Photography/PA Images)
Ousted Formula 1 race director Michael Masi will be given a new role within the FIA, its new president has confirmed.
An investigation by motorsport’s governing body found that Masi’s “human error” had played a major role in Max Verstappen ‘s victory over Lewis Hamilton at last December’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The report, released on the eve of last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, admitted that the Australian had enforced the rules around unlapped cars in a safety car period incorrectly.
Long before that report came out, the FIA had already confirmed that Masi would be replaced as race director. According to new president Mohammed bin Sulayem, however, he will remain part of the organisation despite his high-profile mistake which caused so much furore within F1.
“[We wanted] to take the pressure and the stress from him, because he really went through a lot,” he told F1 Beyond the Grid podcast host Tom Clarkson. “We are grateful for the three years that he invested with us, and he put his time [in].
“But now we are negotiating with him of course to stay in the FIA. He is [an] important figure to us so our people are negotiating other, I would not say a job, but another place for him within the FIA.”
The race director role is now being filled by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who will share the responsibility. Wittich acted as race director in Bahrain last weekend, a race which came and went largely without incident.
The report which shed more light on what had happened that night in Abu Dhabi said that, although Masi had made an error, he had been “acting in good faith”. It read: “The race director called the safety car back into the pit lane without it having completed an additional lap as required by the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations.
“It was also considered that the decisions regarding the safety car at the end of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix likely took into account previous discussions that made clear the Formula 1 Stakeholders (FIA, Formula 1, Teams and Drivers) preference to end races under green flag racing conditions, rather than behind a safety car, when safe to do so.
“In combination with the objective to finish under green flag racing conditions applied throughout the 2021 season, the report finds that the race director was acting in good faith and to the best of his knowledge given the difficult circumstances, particularly acknowledging the significant time constraints for decisions to be made and the immense pressure being applied by the teams.”