Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff claims a “bromance” between former F1 race director Michael Masi and Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley led to the controversial events at last season’s finale in Abu Dhabi. Wolff says Masi’s relationship with Wheatley “turned” the Australian leading to his ‘misguided’ decision making.
As reported by F1i.com, Wolff reportedly made the claims in an upcoming Sky Sports documentary titled ‘Duel: Hamilton vs Verstappen’, which is scheduled to be broadcast this weekend. While talking about the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from his perspective, Wolff reportedly said:
“Jonathan Wheatley has done his job. He’s turned Michael Masi the race director, not only in Abu Dhabi but before, and probably Max owes him a lot. His decisions were wrong and I’m sure that he regrets them. The FIA should have seen much earlier that there was a problem. There was a problem with the structure. There was a problem of personalities.”
Lewis Hamilton was comfortably leading the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for Mercedes when a late safety car period interrupted the race. Given the limited number of laps left before the checkered flag, Mercedes kept Hamilton out, while Verstappen pitted for fresh tires.
On the subsequent restart, however, Masi broke the established convention. He allowed lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves while preventing others behind Verstappen from doing so. This gave the Dutchman an unfair advantage over his title rival and allowed him to clinch the world championship on a nail-biting final lap.
In subsequent weeks, previously unheard radio conversations between the Red Bull pit wall and race control emerged. They purportedly showed Masi’s decisions being influenced by Wheatley, causing an uproar in the F1 community.
Following an extensive inquiry into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the FIA later announced a full restructuring of race control to prevent a further repeat of similar events. The motorsport body also took steps to provide more support to the race director and prevent him/her from being influenced by teams. Masi also lost his position as race director as part of the reshuffle.
“Don’t want to speak to him ever again” – Mercedes boss on interacting with Michael Masi post-Abu Dhabi GP
Toto Wolff has revealed that he hasn’t spoken to Michael Masi since the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He further went on to say that he never intends to do so again in the future.
Speaking to Sky Sports for the documentary ‘Duel: Hamilton vs Verstappen’, the Mercedes boss said:
“I haven’t spoken to him and I don’t want to speak to him ever again.”
Wolff believes Masi’s actions at the Abu Dhabi GP were incredibly unfair to Mercedes, and especially to Lewis Hamilton. He said:
“It’s like a football game that is 1-0 for one team and suddenly the referee says, ‘now it’s golden goal. 0-0, whoever scores the next goal wins’. And by the way, we have to play without boots.”
On the final lap of the race, Verstappen overtook Hamilton, sealing the victory and his first title. Wolff was quick to express his dismay to Masi over team radio, with the animated interaction possibly the last time the two spoke to each other.