FIA president: Masi was axed to take him out of the firing line, new role being negotiated

Michael Masi was removed as race director following the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

FIA President Mohammed ben Sulayem has provided an update on former race director Michael Masi, reiterating that the motorsport governing body still has plans for the Australian.

Masi was removed as race director following the highly controversial events of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when he reneged on an earlier call to allow a limited number of lapped runners to pass the Safety Car ahead of the final lap of the race.

This allowed Max Verstappen to pass Sir Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the championship to win his maiden F1 title.

Mercedes and Hamilton were left “disillusioned” with the pinnacle of motorsport, according to team boss Toto Wolff.

READ: Wolff criticises Verstappen’s ‘win it or bin it’ approach to racing

Masi, who took over from the late Charlie Whiting following his tragic passing during the Australian Grand Prix weekend in 2019, has since been relieved of his duties, and ben Sulayem confirms that the 44-year-old needed to be taken out of the firing line.

“[We wanted] to take the pressure and the stress from him, because he really went through a lot,” he said.

“We are grateful for the three years that he invested with us, and he put his time [in].

“But now we are negotiating with him to stay in the FIA. He is [an] important figure to us. Our people are negotiating [an]other, I would not say a job, but another place for him within the FIA.”

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The FIA confirmed in their report of the contentious finale that there had been a “misunderstanding” of Safety Car protocol, and have thus changed the wording to dictate that “all” lapped runners are to be allowed to pass the Safety Car at race control’s discretion, rather than “any” of them.

With that chapter closed, ben Sulayem wants to move on and enjoy the highly anticipated 2022 season under the all-new technical regulations.

“Now we want to move on, and that we [are] finished with the race in Abu Dhabi with the analysis,” he added.

“It’s the beginning of the 2022 [championship], with all the new cars and all the excitement. I think we should enjoy it and leave that behind us and make sure we have a good new year.”

READ: Ex-F1 driver explains why Ferrari’s customer teams have made a ‘big jump’ this year

During Masi’s time as race director, he juggled this with responsibilities as safety delegate, sporting director and track delegate, and this was one of the factors the FIA attributed the late drama to.

He has been replaced by a combination of alternating directors Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who will receive support from Herbie Blash and a virtual control room.