Formula 1: Michael Masi replaced as race director after Abu Dhabi row

Michael Masi came under fire when he altered the safety car procedure at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale to set up last lap showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
By : HT Auto Desk
| Updated on: 18 Feb 2022, 09:12 AM
Michael Masi came under fire when he altered the safety car procedure at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale to set up last lap showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
Michael Masi came under fire when he altered the safety car procedure at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale to set up last lap showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
Michael Masi came under fire when he altered the safety car procedure at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale to set up last lap showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
Michael Masi came under fire when he altered the safety car procedure at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale to set up last lap showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Formula One race director Michael Masi has been removed from his post after the controversy surrounding the last lap of the last race at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year. His last minute decision on safety car resulted in Red Bull Honda driver Max Verstappen clinch his first championship crown, denying Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Lewis Hamilton a record championship title.

Masi will be replaced by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas. Both of them will share the role of race director. The decision to include two race directors is part of restructuring Formula One's refereeing process. It was unveiled on Thursday by the Formula One's governing body president Mohammed Ben Sulayem. Masi, meanwhile, is expected to be offered a new role within the FIA.

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Wittich was already the favourite to replace Masi as the race director as he served as his deputy. Freitas has earlier as race director to World Endurance Championship, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The duo will take up their roles in the upcoming season.

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Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the governing body of Fiormula One, said, "Respect and support of the referees is in the essence of the FIA. That is why these structural changes are crucial."

Masi became the race director in 2019 season. Michael Masi came under fire when he altered the safety car procedure at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale to set up last lap showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

A late crash during the last race of the season brought out the safety car with five laps remaining. While Verstappen stopped under yellow, Masi controversially changed his decision and let the drivers separating Verstappen from Hamilton pass the safety car. Until then, Hamilton led the race comfortably and was favourite to win a record number of championship title. Verstappen resumed right behind Hamilton and, with help of new set of tires changed during the yellow, sped past Hamilton seven corners from the finish and take his first title.

Ben Sulayem said unlapping procedures behind the safety car will be reassessed and presented to a meeting of the F1 Commission ahead of the start of the upcoming season.

First Published Date: 18 Feb 2022, 09:12 AM IST
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