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BREAKING! FIA SACKS race director, Michael Masi after controversial handling of Abu Dhabi GP

BREAKING! FIA SACKS race director, Michael Masi after controversial handling of Abu Dhabi GP

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The FIA have confirmed that Michael Masi has been sacked as race director following his handling of the chaotic last laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

 

 

Masi oversaw the chaos at the end of the 2021 race at the Yas Marina

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circuit in December where his unprecedented calls under the safety car enabled Max Verstappen a final lap run on Lewis Hamilton with much fresher tyres to snatch the Formula One world championship in the most dramatic fashion.

 

Replacing Masi will be Eduardo Frietas and Niels Wittich who will rotate in the role while being supervised by Herbie Blash as a new permanent senior advisor.

Mercedes had pressed for Masi’s departure ever since he made his contentious decision: namely, disadvantaging Hamilton by withdrawing the safety car, and allowing only the five lapped cars inbetween Verstappen and Hamilton to overtake it prior to the Dutchman having clear air to attack the seven-time champion. Masi's controversial calls under the safety car set up Max Verstappen with a chance to pass Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where he would claim the title

Following a review into the safety car period, where both teams heavily lobbied Masi, direct communications to the race director have been removed from TV broadcast. Teams may now only ask questions in a non-intrusive manner.

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The process of cars unlapping themselves under the safety car will also be reviewed.

Masi’s future had been a topic of much discussion, and his fate was still in the balance as recently as Monday night when an FIA inquiry into the race ended without resolution in London – where the former race director was present.

While Masi will no longer be race director, he will be offered a new role within the FIA

New president, Mohammed ben Sulayem, could hardly be accused of rushing his first major decision – despite it coming more than two months after the controversy unfolded.

A statement from Ben Sulayem read: ‘Drawing conclusions from the detailed analysis of the events of the last F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and from the 2021 season, I proposed an in-depth reform of the organisation of refereeing and race direction. It was unanimously supported by F1 CEO and teams principals.New head of Formula One, Mohammed ben Sulayem, made the call to sack Masi from his role

‘Here is my plan for these structural changes:

‘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.

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‘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.

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‘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.

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‘Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three years as Formula One race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA.

Masi, 44, had public support from a selection of drivers including four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, as well as McLaren duo Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.

He also had backing from significant figures in the corridors of power. They did not believe the teams should dictate who is the sport’s top official.

The race director made dramatic and controversial calls at the end of the Abu Dhabi GP that led to Max Verstappen (above) winning his first ever Formula One world championship

 

The race director made dramatic and controversial calls at the end of the Abu Dhabi GP that led to Max Verstappen (above) winning his first ever Formula One world championship

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With around five laps to go during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Hamilton led second place Verstappen by 12 seconds and was cruising towards a victory that would have crowned him world champion for a record eighth time.

However, Williams driver Nicholas Latifi then crashed late on around the circuit, bringing out the safety car due to the debris littered over the track.

Red Bull pitted Verstappen for new tyres, while Mercedes kept Hamilton out on his old compound, knowing that by pitting first Red Bull would do the opposite and inherit track position by keeping Verstappen out.

With plenty of debris left on the track and so few laps remaining, there was a strong likelihood the cars would run in formation under the safety car until the finish line, so pitting realistically wasn’t an option for Mercedes.

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As the drivers bunched up behind the safety car, there were five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen, meaning any restart meant Verstappen would have to negotiate Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, who would let him through easily as per the rules but not in enough time to give the Dutchman a shot of passing Hamilton.

Credit:Getty Images,DailyMail,CN

Details later…

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