Former president of the FIA, Jean Todt, has revealed that he has been checking up on race director Michael Masi after the controversial and shocking end to the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Sir Lewis Hamilton looked on course to secure his record eighth Formula 1 title in the final race of the season when he was leading rival Max Verstappen by a comfortable margin heading into the final few laps.
However, when Williams driver Nicholas Latifi crashed into the wall, Masi was forced to send the Safety Car onto the circuit which prompted the Red Bull driver to pit.
Mercedes opted to leave the 37-year-old out on track in fear of losing track position were there to be insufficient time for the race to resume under green flag conditions.
Subsequently, there were five lapped cars between the pair and initially, due to the time constraints, Masi decreed that no lapped runners would be permitted to pass the Safety Car.
But after negotiation with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Red Bull boss Christian Horner and a brake fire on Latifi’s car that Karun Chandhok believes extended the Safety Car period, he reneged on his earlier decision by only allowing the five cars between the leaders through.
Verstappen then passed his rival on the last lap, prompting ire from the serial constructors’ champions.
Wolff told the 44-year-old that the finish to the championship was “so not right,” and Mercedes have vowed to hold the FIA “accountable” for an investigation they are currently conducting into the drama.
Since then, the Brackley squad are said to have denied rumours that they dropped an appeal into the standings in exchange for the removal of Masi from his position, and the Australian was even missing on the FIA organisational chart for January.
As it turns out, new president Mohammed ben Sulayem has simply placed him and head of single-seater technical matters, Nikolas Tombazis, under the supervision of new executive director of single-seaters Peter Bayer.
This has done little to detract from the many calls on social media to have Masi stripped of his position, but Bayer, among others in the paddock, has empathised with the sheer amount of pressure that the Australian is placed under every weekend.
Todt, who had to step down at the end of last year after a maximum term of 12 years in charge of the motorsport governing body, has contacted Masi simply to ask if he is okay following the abuse he has received.
“I’ve been speaking with him, not specifically about what happened in Abu Dhabi, but about him as a human being,” Todt said in an interview with Sky Sports F1.
“I hope he will be OK.”
Wolff has indicated that he wants “action, not just words” if the FIA are to retain their integrity amid what Mercedes perceive to be a miscarriage of duty from race control last year.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown has previously suggested adopting the NASCAR approach of employing full-time stewards, and believes that the pinnacle of motorsport can yet mend its perhaps blemished image.
“It [F1] can definitely regain its credibility,” Brown said.
“It’s not the first time we’ve had a referee make a controversial call. This one happened to be pretty big, but I think the sport will have learned by it.”
However, the American does not understand why the FIA needs until 18 March to finish their analysis of the closing events last season – just two days before the start of the 2022 season in Bahrain.
“The only thing I’m a little bit disappointed about is that we might share those results at the first race of the year,” he added.
“It doesn’t take that long to do an investigation. Let’s get it done, let’s go to the first race of the year talking about the first race of the year – not the last race of last year.”
As it stands, Masi will remain as race director this year and, while Bayer has not completely ruled out the possibility of the him losing his job, he has indicated he would prefer to create a framework around him that alleviates the stress of his plethora of tasks during races.