Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes that former race director Michael Masi should have been given more assistance by the FIA instead of being removed from his position.
Masi was accused of manipulating the 2021 championship when he allowed a limited number of lapped runners to pass the Safety Car ahead of the final lap of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
This led to a final lap overtake from Max Verstappen to clinch his first-ever championship from Sir Lewis Hamilton in remarkable and highly contentious circumstances.
Initially, it looked as though new FIA president, Mohammed ben Sulayem, would be putting in place an infrastructure for the Australian having moved Peter Bayer over as executive director of single-seaters.
But after a meeting with team principals almost two weeks ago, the 14-time East Rally Champion officially announced that Masi had been removed as race director, and been replaced by a combination of Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas.
They will receive support from Herbie Blash, who previously acted as deputy to Masi’s late predecessor Charlie Whiting.
Horner, whose team were ultimately the beneficiary of the 44-year-old’s decision, reveals that Masi has received death threats since the race in December, much like Williams’ Nicholas Latifi whose crash caused the Safety Car.
“The lack of support that was shown to Michael was disappointing, especially at a time when mental health is so prevalent,” he said, as quoted by the Mirror.
“To hear that his family and he received death threats is not right.”
The Briton ultimately opines that insufficient support was given to the former race director, and divulges that he has wished him all the best in his future endeavours.
“An awful lot of pressure was put on the FIA to deal with him,” he stated.
“And I made it clear in last week’s meeting in London that there should have been more support for him. I was disappointed that nobody shared that opinion.
“I have had an exchange with Michael to wish him well. But the whole experience was very, very tough for him.”
Horner’s comments echo the thoughts of Verstappen, who previously described the removal of Masi “unacceptable,” and sympathises with the fact that the Australian had the 24-year-old’s own Red Bull team pressurising him.
“Of course people talk about what was decided in Abu Dhabi but can you imagine a referee in whatever sport has the coach or equivalent screaming in his ear all the time?” he added.
“‘Yellow card, red card, no decision, no foul. It’s impossible to make a decision.”That F1 allowed that team members could talk to him while making decisions is very wrong. It needed to be Michael making decisions on his own without people screaming in his ear.”
Freitas and Wittich were in position during this week’s first pre-season test in Barcelona, where Verstappen completed 206 laps in a day-and-a-half of running.