FIA president speaks out on Michael Masi returning in 2024

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has revealed that he has received death threats from Lewis Hamilton fans.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is open to bringing back ex-Formula 1 race director Michael Masi, despite his handling of the controversial 2021 season finale.

Two years ago, at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Masi failed to follow the rule book which ultimately impacted who became World Champion.

Lewis Hamilton was set to win an unprecedented eighth Drivers’ Championship having led almost the entirety of the race, until a late Safety Car caused chaos.

A Safety Car was required after Nicholas Latifi crashed in the final sector; however, Masi failed to end the neutralised period by the book.

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Initially, Masi decided that no cars would be allowed to un-lap themselves, which meant the five-lapped drivers between Hamilton in first and Max Verstappen in second would remain there.

Second later, though, Masi decided that only the lapped drivers between the two title contenders would be allowed to un-lap themselves.

This illegal incident took place on the penultimate lap, with the rule book stating that either all cars can un-lap themselves or none at all.

The rules also state that when drivers are given permission to un-lap themselves, the Safety Car must complete an additional lap.

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In this case, that would’ve been the final lap, which would’ve secured Hamilton the title.

However, Masi brought the Safety Car period to an end the second the final of the five cars unlapped themselves, giving Verstappen the advantage as he had softer and fresher tyres.

Verstappen went onto win the title after overtaking Hamilton on the final lap.

An FIA investigation was conducted into Masi’s handling of the race and decided that he’d made a ‘human error’.

He was dropped as a result.

However, Ben Sulayem is now open to bringing him back if there is an “opportunity” and if Masi is the “right person”, whilst the FIA president also believes he “cannot apologise” for what happened as it was done before he took on his position.

“I always apologise,” Ben Sulayem told the Guardian newspaper, “but I cannot apologise for something which was done before my time.

“Ok, I will do the apology, but I will bring Michael Masi again. Do you think that is right?

“The poor guy is a person who has been attacked and abused. Michael Masi went through hell. And if I see there is an opportunity that the FIA needs, and Michael Masi is the right person, I will bring him.”

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Ben Sulayem even revealed that like Masi, he also received death threats, which for the ex-race director has led to him seeking mental health support.

“I even had people threatening to kill me,” revealed Ben Sulayem. “Because I had the power to change it.

“But I said to them ‘Sorry, the World Cup of 1966, England against Germany, was that correct? Did they change it? No’. Did they give it to Germany? Nein.”