Sir Lewis Hamilton is said to be livid at the possibility that Michael Masi may one day return as race director after FIA President Mohammed ben Sulayem hinted at his re-introduction.
Masi was removed ahead of the 2022 season after the controversial 2021 finale which saw a controversial Safety Car restart allow Max Verstappen the chance to pass Sir Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to claim his maiden world title.
In response, a review was conducted into the incident, and the Emirati, who took over from Jean Todt, announced that Masi would be replaced by a combination of Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who are alternating in the role.
There was mild speculation that the Australian may be called up for the Miami Grand Prix after both of his replacements were reported to have COVID-19, but Wittich was able to travel to Florida to perform his duties.
Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff were said to have been left “disillusioned” with Formula 1 after Masi’s decision last year, and the Austrian recently described him as a “liability,” accusing him of being “disrespectful” to drivers and tending to “abuse” event organisers.
The 44-year-old still holds a place with the FIA, and ben Sulayem has confirmed that, should Masi need to be called upon, he will be considered.
“Michael is there and we might use him,” he said, quoted by the Daily Mail.
“I didn’t say we were getting rid of him, I said we might use him.
“He may be in a good place to use, we are open to everything.”
At any one time, Masi was juggling his role as race director with positions as director of sports, track delegate and safety delegate, and the “additional pressure” of his “multiple roles” was highlighted as a key cause of the contention.
“Our race structure was wrong organisationally,” ben Sulayem explained.
“And though we have brought in two new race directors, I wouldn’t say we have got it all right yet, we need to clean the stables.
“It’s not like going to a supermarket and asking for more stewards, you need firm and fair people, tolerant people.
“I am thinking, for example, of bringing in rally co-drivers, who have plenty of multi-tasking skills that are required, and training them up.”
The “turnover” of staff who were on temporary contracts was cited as a further reason for the chaotic events at the Yas Marina Circuit in December, and the 14-time East Rally champion would like to hire more full-time personnel, including another race director.
“We need a recruitment drive,” said ben Sulayem.
“This lack of people in the FIA needs to be addressed. I would like to see a minimum of three race directors, ideally by the beginning of next year.”
Hamilton is said by Sportsmail to be “astonished” by the news that ben Sulayem may be in line for a return, while ben Sulayem reportedly “does not want a fight,” and “is simply aiming to restore the FIA to its rightful position, nothing more or less.”
One would assume that this is the reason for the sudden clampdown on jewellery after the regulation banning it was introduced 17 years ago, but another source has indicated that it is about making sure the FIA reminds the teams that they hold power.
Typically, Formula One Management (FOM) the FIA and the teams themselves are involved in the bulk of the decision-making in the sport – and ben Sulayem reportedly wants to remind Wolff that he is not at the helm.
“Over the last few years the FIA has been marginalised and Ben Sulayem wants to return it to its old role,” the source told Sportsmail.
“He doesn’t want anything himself, financially or in any other way. He maybe feels that Toto has got a little ahead of himself. It’s not up to Toto to run Formula 1.”
With Wittich having presided over the opening four rounds of the season, Freitas is set to take the reigns at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.