Explained: Why the FIA has sacked both of F1’s 2022 race directors

Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas shared the race director role in 2022, after Michael Masi was sacked at the end of the previous year.

When Mohammed Ben Sulayem was appointed the new president of the FIA at the end of 2021, he was handed the task of cleaning up the mess of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Then race director Michael Masi allowed only the cars in between championship contenders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to unlap themselves, leaving time for one final racing lap with the Dutchman on soft tyres.

Verstappen snatched the lead of the race and therefore the title from Hamilton on the single racing lap that followed, leading to outrage from Mercedes and fans who claimed that Masi had robbed Hamilton of his record breaking eighth world title.

Ben Sulayem sacked Masi and appointed Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich to share the race director role for 2022, alternating between race weekends.

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The FIA president has now suggested in a recent interview that neither Freitas or Wittich will continue as race director in 2023, claiming that he believes that there are always better options out there being trained by the FIA.

But what caused Wittich and Freitas to lose their jobs? There are two major incidents from last season that can be pinpointed to explain why two new race directors will be appointed ahead of next season.

The Japanese Grand Prix saw Freitas sidelined from his role after a recovery crane was deployed onto the track in extreme wet conditions, before the drivers had returned to the pitlane.

Not only was the extremely dangerous, but it was also at the exact circuit where Jules Bianchi tragically lost his life after colliding with a recovery vehicle.

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As for Wittich, the US Grand Prix in Austin proved to be the nail in the coffin as his handling of Fernando Alonso’s accident with Lance Stroll was nothing short of shambolic.

Alonso’s car was heavily damaged after the accident, but Wittich decided not to show the Spaniard the black and yellow flag, allowing him to finish the race without pitting for repairs.

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Haas the launched a protest against the Alpine driver, claiming that Alonso should have seen the black and yellow flag, resulting in Alonso being slapped with a 30-second post-race penalty.

It then turned out that Haas’ protest was invalid and Alonso’s race result was reinstated, as Wittich informed the team that they had one hour after the race to file a protest, when the actual deadline was half an hour.

With both race directors making catastrophic mistakes last year, it is no surprise that the FIA are looking to give other officials a chance this year.