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It’s Official…The FIA SACKS Race Director Michael Masi After His Controversial Handling Of The Abu Dhabi GP, Lewis Hamilton Finally Gets Wish

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Lewis Hamilton has been granted his wish by Formula One’s rulers with the sacking confirmed today of race director Michael Masi. But that is two months later than the Briton needed officialdom’s help, when the controversial circumstances of the final race in Abu Dhabi robbed him of a near-certain eighth world championship title triumph. The decision of new FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem to sack Masi, his top official undermines Max Verstappen’s victory.

 

However, Mercedes will not seek to have the result overturned. When Sportsmail put to a team spokesman that they may now choose to go legal, the response was: ‘No.’ So Verstappen remains the 2021 F1 world champion, and a worthy one. Hamilton remains second, and understandably bitter. The Briton will now line-up at the Mercedes car launch tomorrow, alongside new team-mate George Russell. It is understood that Masi’s departure – at least into a lesser, unspecified role in the new structure – was pretty much a quid pro quo for Hamilton’s continued participation. Masi’s controversial decisions at last year’s season-finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton lose the title race. F1’s governing body, the FIA, have confirmed the sacking and replacing Masi will be Eduardo Frietas and Niels Wittich, who will rotate in the role while being supervised by Herbie Blash as a new permanent senior advisor.

 

 

Mercedes had pressed for Masi’s departure ever since he made his contentious decisions: namely, disadvantaging Hamilton by withdrawing the safety car, and allowing only the five lapped cars inbetween Verstappen and Hamilton to overtake it and so providing the Dutchman freedom to attack the seven-time champion.

Following a review into the safety car period, where both teams heavily lobbied Masi, direct communications to the race director have been removed from TV broadcast. Teams may now only ask questions in a non-intrusive manner. The process of cars unlapping themselves under the safety car will also be reviewed. Reacting to the news on Thursday, a spokesperson from Mercedes told Sportsmail: ‘We accepted and acknowledged the championship result in our statement on 16 December.

 

‘Since then, the FIA has conducted its own analysis in consultation with teams and drivers (including us) and reached its conclusions, which they have presented today.’

Masi’s future had been a topic of much discussion, and his fate was still in the balance as recently as Monday night when an FIA inquiry into the race ended without resolution in London – where the former race director was present.
While Masi will no longer be race director, he will be offered a new role within the FIA. New president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, could hardly be accused of rushing his first major decision – despite it coming more than two months after the controversy unfolded. A statement from Ben Sulayem read: ‘Drawing conclusions from the detailed analysis of the events of the last F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and from the 2021 season, I proposed an in-depth reform of the organisation of refereeing and race direction. It was unanimously supported by F1 CEO and teams principals.
‘Here is my plan for these structural changes:

 

 

‘Firstly, to assist the race director in the decision-making process, a Virtual Race Control Room will be created. Alike the Video Assistance Referee (VAR) in football, it will be positioned in one of the FIA Offices as a backup outside the circuit. In real-time connection with the FIA F1 race director, it will help to apply the sporting regulations using the most modern technological tools.

‘Secondly, direct radio communications during the race, currently broadcast live by all TVs, will be removed in order to protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully. It will still be possible to ask questions to the race director, according to a well-defined and non-intrusive process.

Thirdly, unlapping procedures behind safety car will be reassessed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the next F1 Commission prior to the start of the season.

 

 

And finally, 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 advisor.’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.

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