FIA warns Masi could be axed immediately, mulls ways to ‘reduce burden’ on race director

Many Formula 1 fans have called for Michael Masi's sacking following the chaotic and controversial end to the 2021 championship.

The FIA’s new single-seater executive director Peter Bayer has not ruled out removing race director Michael Masi from his position, but prioritises providing assistance to race control in 2022.

Masi was at the centre of controversy on a number of occasions during 2021, most notably at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, at the end of which a late Safety Car restart decision facilitated a last lap move from Max Verstappen to beat Sir Lewis Hamilton to the championship.

The Australian allowed a limited number of lapped runners past a late Safety Car at the end of the season finale, four minutes after time constraints had led him to rule that no lapped cars would get their lap back.

This was ultimately was one of several occasions – including Azerbaijan and Belgium – in which the Australian’s competency was called into question, and several Formula 1 fans have called for his dismissal since the chaotic ending at the Yas Marina Circuit.

READ: Masi ‘needs a lot of support around him’ to continue as race director

Pandemonium ensued in the F1 community when Masi and head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis appeared absent from the FIA’s organisational chart for January.

However, it has since been reported that the pair will simply be working under the supervision of Bayer as part of new president Mohammed ben Sulayem’s reshuffle.

Bayer refuses to eliminate the possibility that the Australian may yet be replaced as race director, however.

“Michael did a super job in many ways. We told him that,” he is quoted as telling the Salzburger Nachrichten.

Article continues below

“But also that there is a possibility there could be a new race director.”

Former Formula 1 driver Martin Brundle has recently suggested that the 44-year-old needs “support” with his role, and Bayer recognises the sheer amount of hats Masi has to wear during a race weekend.

“[We are looking at] dividing the various tasks of the race director, who is also sports director, safety and track delegate,” he explained.

“That was simply too much. These roles are divided between several people. This reduces the burden on the race director.”

The FIA are conducting an investigation into the bizarre closing events of the race in December, and part of this entails evaluating how to deal with the situation Masi was faced with when Williams’ Nicholas Latifi crashed so late on in the race.

Bayer highlighted the NASCAR approach to late race cautions.

“If neutralisation is necessary in the last two laps of the race, the lap counting ends and the laps are added at the end of the Safety Car phase,” he pointed out.

“This could cause a fuel problem in F1, which is why it is being looked at more closely.

“We also asked the teams if their requirement not to finish a race under Safety Car was still relevant, to which they all agreed.”

Michael Masi could be fired after costing Lewis Hamilton 2021 F1 championship.v1

F1 technical director Ross Brawn previously stated that radio communication between the teams and race control – which was particularly prominent as Mercedes battled Red Bull last year – will be ceased ahead of the 2022 season.

However, Bayer clarifies that, rather than a blanket ban, one member of the team will be allowed to put enquiries to the race director.

“The team managers will still be able to – they have to be able to ask questions,” he maintained.

“We want to build in a buffer with an employee who accepts these requests.”

Ultimately, the new head of single-seater matters wants the race director to be able to focus more on the race from now on.

READ: Toto Wolff reveals he considered quitting Formula 1 after feeling ‘burnt out’

“In the future, the race director will be able to concentrate on his task and will no longer be distracted.”

Mercedes have reportedly denied rumours that the rescindment of their appeal of the championship result days after the race in the UAE’s capital was contingent on Masi’s removal, but they have promised to hold the FIA “accountable” for their investigation.

The governing body will conclude their inquiry on 18 March, two days before the season kicks off in Bahrain.

Follow us on Google News to never miss an F1 story