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Michael Masi replaced as F1 race director after FIA review of 2021 Abu Dhabi GP finale

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Michael Masi replaced after FIA review into 2021 Abu Dhabi GP; Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas to alternate as F1 race director in 2022; Masi to be offered new role in FIA; Virtual Race Control Room created, direct communication between teams and race director removed

Last Updated: 17/02/22 2:08pm




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FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem announces that Michael Masi has been removed as F1 race director amongst a string of other changes

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem announces that Michael Masi has been removed as F1 race director amongst a string of other changes

Michael Masi has been replaced as F1 race director for the 2022 season, the FIA has confirmed.

Masi had been under intense pressure since the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP finale, with the late decisions that culminated in Max Verstappen edging Lewis Hamilton for an extraordinary race and title win questioned.

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem announced Niels Wittich, former DTM race director, and Eduardo Freitas, WEC race director, will act alternatively as F1’s race director, assisted by Herbie Blash as the permanent senior advisor.

The new race management team will be in place from next week’s test in Barcelona.

Masi will be offered a new role within the FIA, which Sky Sports understands will be a safety role.

A Virtual Race Control Room will also be created, while direct radio communications between teams and the race director will be removed.

The unlapping procedure behind the Safety Car is also to be reviewed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the F1 Commission prior to the season getting under way in Bahrain on March 18.

Listen to audio from the team radios which reveals just how late the decision was made to allow the drivers to unlap themselves during the controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi GP.

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Listen to audio from the team radios which reveals just how late the decision was made to allow the drivers to unlap themselves during the controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi GP.

Listen to audio from the team radios which reveals just how late the decision was made to allow the drivers to unlap themselves during the controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi GP.

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said the subject of radio communication between teams and the race director had been discussed in this week’s F1 Commission.

“It’s not a surprise for us at all, something that has been analysed and discussed with all other teams,” he said at the launch of Ferrari’s 2022 challenger, which was unveiled moments before the FIA revealed their restructure.

“What happened in Abu Dhabi has been overdiscussed, overanalysed. I think the fact it took so long shows the complexity of the matter, nothing obvious.

“It’s very difficult to say everything was wrong, any mistakes or not. Certainly when you’re taking this decision, you’re under pressure in the heat of the action, the pressure is very very high and the communications from the team certainly doesn’t help.

“It was not an obvious decision and a difficult one to take. At Ferrari we support the decision of its new chairman, and we hope to collaborate for a better future for our racing.”

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s proposal in full

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 1 race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA.

I presented this complete plan to the members of the World Motor Sport Council and the Senate who gave their full support.

With this plan, FIA opens the way for a new step forward in Formula 1 refereeing. 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, organizers, and of course, the fans.

Max Verstappen passes Lewis Hamilton on the final lap in Abu Dhabi to win the 2021 F1 Championship!

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Max Verstappen passes Lewis Hamilton on the final lap in Abu Dhabi to win the 2021 F1 Championship!

Max Verstappen passes Lewis Hamilton on the final lap in Abu Dhabi to win the 2021 F1 Championship!

What happened in Abu Dhabi?

In the final stages of the Abu Dhabi GP on December 12, Masi ordered only the lapped cars between Hamilton and second-placed Verstappen through, providing the Dutchman, on fresh tyres, a shot at passing Hamilton – who was on old rubber.

While Masi’s actions were justified by the FIA stewards following a Mercedes team appeal, F1’s governing body lodged a full review into the process, with the investigative stage beginning last month.

As part of their investigation, the FIA spoke to key representatives, including all the drivers.





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