Since his dismissal from the role of F1 race director in March 2022, there have been several accusations and revelations coming to light. The regulatory body had also tried to negotiate a different role for the Australian, but his departure will also leave many questions unanswered.
Why was Michael Masi dismissed from his role?
With controversy surrounding the final lap of the 2021 F1 Abu Dhabi GP and Lewis Hamilton being denied an eighth title, the FIA was pressured into conducting an investigation. Masi’s mistake in the race was allowing only a few of the lapped cars between the Briton and his contender Max Verstappen to unlap themselves, whereas the rest of the cars were not allowed to do so. The result of the questionable decision was a dramatic finish to the season finale and a controversy that lasted the entire off-season.
Masi made the controversial decision under pressure and in a limited time frame. Both Red Bull and Mercedes were accused of heavily lobbying him throughout the season and pressuring him while taking that decision. The error eventually sealed his fate and with the FIA under pressure, the Australian was replaced by two rotating race directors and a virtual assistant race control system.
Meanwhile, although Mercedes launched a protest, it was turned down by the stewards, followed by the team deciding to drop its intent to appeal the result. The team and the British champion, however, boycotted the FIA Annual Prize Giving ceremony and there were allegations strung across throughout the off-season.
What did the former F1 race director go through?
The FIA investigation and analysis following the incidents revealed that a human error had been made, which decided the F1 2021 championship, but Masi paid the price. According to many, he was hung out to dry and had to face the wrath of public scrutiny and mental exhaustion following the events in Abu Dhabi. Upon being dismissed from his duties in March, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem mentioned that the Australian went through a lot, while Red Bull team chief Christian Horner revealed that Masi and his family had received death threats.
The FIA president also revealed that the organization was negotiating to offer Masi a different role and even contemplated bringing him back to F1 in a different capacity. Apart from Mercedes chief Toto Wolff’s damning claims that the race director was a liability to the sport and racist, nobody else in the F1 fraternity had spoken against him. There was also speculation that the Australian was exhausted from his job and preferred to step away. Apart from being the race director, Masi was also the safety delegate carrying out track inspections at different venues.
How has the sport sorted its race direction post-Masi?
While the FIA has put a new system of race management in place with two directors instead of one, there have been complaints and controversy surrounding the new appointees. George Russell, Max Verstappen, and Charles Leclerc have been vocal about the track limits issue in Austria. Russell was also vocal about switching back to one race director instead of two, exemplifying that the chaos and confusion with managing races have not gotten any better.
Michael Masi, who inherited the job from the late Charlie Whiting, had half the support system as the current race directors but with more experience than they do. Perhaps the same system of support for the Australian might have resulted in a different outcome in the 2021 F1 championship. Needless to say, the saga and complaints about race management have continued, and having two race directors in the rotation has led to a lot of confusion.
What next for the former F1 race director?
With Michael Masi leaving for Australia with perhaps a different role ahead of him, the real question is whether his version of the story will ever make it to the public domain. Amidst the chaos, investigations, and controversy, the Australian was denied the opportunity to be vocal. The lack of a version from his perspective of the events makes the 2021 F1 Abu Dhabi GP saga incomplete. With the former F1 race director off FIA’s payroll, he will now have the chance to speak up about the events. It remains to be seen, however, if he chooses to do so or continues to be silent, moving on from the charade to greener pasturers Down Under.
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