Almost half of F1 fans who took part in a Formula1News.co.uk poll believe that the FIA made a mistake by firing Michael Masi after the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Specifically, 47.2 percent of participants said they don’t think the FIA made the right call by removing Masi as Formula 1’s race director ahead of the 2022 season.
Sir Lewis Hamilton was comfortably leading the season finale in 2021 when Williams’ Nicholas Latifi collided with the barrier late on, bringing out the Safety Car.
Max Verstappen took the opportunity to pit, leaving five lapped cars between himself and the Briton with Mercedes opting not to risk track position so late in the race.
Masi, with time constraints leaving seemingly insufficient time to finish the race were he to allow all the lapped runners to get their lap back, decided to leave them in their place.
The Australian then came under immense pressure from Red Bull as sporting director Jonathan Wheatley and team principal Christian Horner attempted to convince him that the lapped runners should be permitted to pass the Safety Car.
He appeared to succumb to this pressure with just one lap remaining of the grand prix when he made the controversial call to allow only the five cars between the title protagonists to get their lap back, as the remainder of them were told to remain in position.
This led to a final lap overtake from the Dutchman to seal his maiden championship in dramatic fashion; it was a cruel blow for the 37-year-old, and Mercedes were livid.
Team principal Toto Wolff told Masi that the finish was “so not right,” and reports began to spread that, after the Silver Arrows dropped their appeal into the championship classification a few days later, they had done so in exchange for the 44-year-old’s sacking.
Mercedes later reportedly denied having agreed such a deal with the FIA.
After a meeting with team bosses last week, Mohammed ben Sulayem, the new FIA president, confirmed that there would be “structural changes” to race control.
In a statement later on in the week, he confirmed that Masi had been removed from his role as race director and replaced by the alternating Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas.
They will be supported by former deputy race director Herbie Blash and a virtual control room.
Former Formula 1 driver Marc Surer has since defended the 44-year-old, telling Formula1News.co.uk that he “did not do a bad job,” and that the governing body’s decision to axe him was an “overreaction.”
We asked our readers whether or not replacing Masi was the most prudent thing for the FIA to do, and the result was relatively split.
In reply to our three-day Twitter poll, one user voiced their displeasure, saying: “It used to be Ferrari who could push the FIA around. This creates the perception that Mercedes has the power to do it.
“The FIA should not be subservient to any single team. They are supposed to represent all of them. Hopefully they can establish more independence next.”
Others agreed with the decision, with another replying: “Yes Michael, yes. This was so so right.”
It is anticipated that the Australian will take up another position within the FIA, but exactly what that will be is yet unknown.