FIA president announces different race director for 2023

The race director role was split between Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas in 2022, following the controversial end to the previous season.

The 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix shocked the world, as a controversial safety car procedure by then race director Michael Masi allowed Max Verstappen to snatch the drivers’ championship away from Lewis Hamilton, despite having trailed the Brit for the entire race.

A late safety car triggered by Nicholas Latifi’s crash made the final race of the season extremely likely, however Masi allowed only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves, leaving time for a single racing lap.

As Verstappen had pitted for soft tyres at the start of the safety car, passing Hamilton on old hards was a simple task and the outcry from F1 fans following the Grand Prix saw Masi sacked as F1 race director.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who was appointed to the role of FIA president late in 2021 was left to clear up this mess and decided to appoint two race directors in 2022 to alternate race weekends, in the form on Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas.

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Despite the change in approach, 2022 was no less controversial, as a recovery crane was sent onto the track in extreme wet conditions while every car was still on the circuit in Suzuka, the track where Jules Bianchi tragically lost his life in a near identical scenario.

The outrage from the drivers, especially Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris, saw Freitas sidelined as race director, leaving Wittich to see out the rest of the season as race director.

In a recent interview, Spanish newspaper MARCA has reported that Ben Sulayem is set to change both race directors this year, having responded “no” when asked if Wittich and Freitas will remain in charge this year.

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“There is a process underway. We have a team working on the training of commissioners and race directors. You cannot have just one [race director], I think you have to have a second option,” said the FIA president.

“I always believe that there is someone better in the world, a better marshal, a better race director… our team is training them and I promise you, and you are recording me, that we will have them.”

The FIA’s relationship with F1 is becoming more and more strained in recent months, as constant mistakes by race directors combined with the conflict between the two about the addition of an extra F1 team have led to tensions in the relationship.