Michael Masi received significant criticism for the chaotic and controversial decisions made by the F1 race director on the restart of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021. After the Australian was removed from his position, ESPN reporter Nate Saunders claimed the move was FIA's admission that the championship-deciding call was indeed wrong.
Saunders described the repercussions and meaning of the FIA's decision to replace Masi at the beginning of the 2022 season, saying:
“This is a massive admission that what happened in Abu Dhabi was not correct, the race should not have started in that way. Sadly, that in the eyes of a lot of people is going to taint and tarnish Max Verstappen's championship.”
Max Verstappen denied the Mercedes driver a record-breaking eighth championship title and took his first under very controversial circumstances. Saunders opines that the FIA's decision to sack Masi will severely tarnish Verstappen's win after one of the most thrilling seasons in F1 history.
“It’s such a shame that such a fantastic and historic rivalry between Hamilton and Verstappen, one of the best championships we’ve ever seen, ended in that fashion. Even if Red Bull want to deny it, this is the FIA saying this guy made a huge mistake in a huge moment in the championship.”
Saunders claimed that Verstappen's 2021 championship win is likely to have an asterisk next to it in the eyes of fans. While this is unlikely to bother the Dutchman himself, given that the title is officially his, it is certainly a disappointing result of an iconic season.
“I don’t believe the result should be overturned” – Karun Chandhok against reversing F1 Abu Dhabi result
With Michael Masi's departure from his role as race director, Karun Chandhok offered his thoughts on the development. The former F1 driver-turned-TV pundit revealed that, while this may seem like an admission by the FIA of a wrong decision, he does not believe that the decision to crown Verstappen as world champion should be reversed.
As reported by Planet F1, Chandhok claimed he is opposed to overturning the result from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He said:
“I don’t believe the result should be overturned. I think there are too many variables involved in that process just to clearly say ‘if the lapped cars had been left there, Lewis would have 100% won’. I don’t think you can definitively say that. Even Mercedes would definitively not be able to say that. So I don’t think the result can be overturned.”
Had a different decision been made by Masi at the time, one cannot say with full certainty that Hamilton would have won the championship. If the 2021 season taught us anything, it's that anything can happen. To reverse the decision now based on what could have happened would simply be another wrong decision made by the FIA.