Michael Masi sacked by FIA as it highlights changes for 2022 season

Michael Masi sacked by FIA as it highlights changes for 2022 season

Formula 1 Race Director Michael Masi has been sacked following a controversy after last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale.

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem announced Michael Masi will be stepping down from his race director role with immediate effect as he confirmed changes to the officiating of Formula 1 Grand Prix events.

Michael Masi has lost his post as Race Director after weeks and months of in-depth internal investigations into the spectacular and controversial events of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix title decider, which ended with Max Verstappen defeating Lewis Hamilton to win the world championship.

Masi’s actions leading up to the race’s final lap restart were severely criticized at the time and in the two months since, prompting Mercedes to issue an instant protest regarding how the Safety Car situation was handled.

Mercedes filed two protests against the race results, both of which were dismissed by the stewards, despite Mercedes’ earlier indication that they would not lodge any appeal.

However, their appeal was dismissed when the FIA announced that they will do a complete analysis and investigation of the race, as well as their own internal governance.

Hamilton had intimated that the outcome of this process might influence his choice on whether or not to race in 2022.

Masi’s departure as race director has already been confirmed, however, he will be offered another role within the FIA. He was appointed to the position in January 2019 after his predecessor, Charlie Whiting died unexpectedly only days before the Australian GP.

Masi’s responsibilities will now be shared by Eduardo Frietas from WEC and Niels Wittich from DTM, who will take turns as the Race Directors. Herbie Blash, Whiting’s former deputy race director, has been hired as a new permanent senior advisor to assist them.

“I would like to inform you that a new race management team will be put in place starting in Barcelona for the test session,” F1 president Ben Sulayem said.

“Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will act alternatively as race director, assisted by Herbie Blash as permanent senior advisor.”

“Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three years as Formula 1 race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA,” he confirmed.

“I presented this complete plan to the members of the World Motor Sport Council and the Senate who gave their full support.”

In recognition that the role of race director is now a daunting if not impossible one, the race control team will use new virtual support systems that use video playback similar to that used by VAR in football to assist the F1 teams.

“To assist the race director in the decision-making process, a virtual Race Control Room will be created.”

“Like 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,” Ben Sulayem confirmed.

Direct conversations with the race director will no longer be broadcast on the television live feed, and only non-intrusive questions will be permitted.

“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,” Ben Sulayem explained.

“It will be still possible to ask questions to the race director, according to a well-defined and non-intrusive process.”

The FIA President also confirmed the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee will review the rules for enabling lapped vehicles to pass the safety car before restarts and present them to the next F1 Commission before the season begins.

“With this plan, FIA opens the way for a new step forward in Formula 1 refereeing,” he stated.

“These changes will enable us to start the 2022 Formula 1 season in the best conditions, and our sport will be even more loved and respected.”

“Without the referees, there is no sport. Respect and support of the referees is in the essence of the FIA.”

“That is why these structural changes are crucial in a context of strong development and the legitimate expectations of drivers, teams, manufacturers, organisers, and of course the fans.”

“I warmly thank all those who contributed to this reform.”

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