FIA urged to bring back Michael Masi despite Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton pressure

The Italian Grand Prix finished behind the Safety Car last weekend.

Russian commentator, Alexey Popov, has suggested that race director Michael Masi always had the interests of the fans in mind when making his decisions.

Masi was involved in controversy last season when a late Safety Car was deployed while Sir Lewis Hamilton was comfortably leading Max Verstappen in their championship finale.

The fight culminated in a decision by the Australian to allow a limited number of lapped runners through so that the season would end with the title protagonists going at it.

On fresher tyres, Verstappen passed his rival on the final lap to claim the gold, but it was also argued that Hamilton had been disadvantaged by the call to wave only the cars between the two leaders through.

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Due to the bizarre ending, Masi was removed as race director ahead of the new season, and was replaced by a combination of Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, the latter of whom was presiding over the Italian Grand Prix last weekend.

Verstappen had a comfortable lead over Charles Leclerc going into the closing stages, and the Safety Car was brought out when Daniel Ricciardo pulled over with a mechanical failure.

Unfortunately, his McLaren had cut out while it was in fourth gear, so the marshals could not get it into neutral to wheel it back to the gate.

This necessitated the cherry picker to come and get it, by which point precious time had passed.

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One of the options available to Wittich was to bring out a red flag, but the incident was not ordinarily severe enough for that, and the German did not make an exception for the fact that the race was coming to a close.

In the end, time ran out to get things restarted, and Verstappen won at a canter under yellow flags, leaving fans disappointed.

Popov points to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last season, when Sergio Perez won following a dramatic ending brought about by a red flag for Verstappen’s crash.

“For all those who criticised Masi, red flagging a race as he did in Baku was his initiative,” he said.

“We saw a restart and a two-lap fight.

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“The famous restart in Abu Dhabi, yes it turned the championship around, but still he wanted the people to see a race. Sometimes, you can neglect the formalities for a race.

“I say it again – we should bring Masi back.”

La Gazzetta dello Sport went further, suggesting that the anti-climactic finish has done “serious damage” to Formula 1.