FIA President Mohammed ben Sulayem has stressed that there are no hard feelings between himself and Michael Masi after the Australian was removed from his role as race director.
Masi was involved in controversy last season when allowed a limited number of lapped runners to pass the Safety Car head of the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, opening the door for Max Verstappen to pass Sir Lewis Hamilton for the championship in dramatic fashion.
A review from the FIA found that a “misunderstanding” of the regulations had taken place in race control, but they found that the “multiple responsibilities” placed on Masi put “additional pressure” on the role.
The constant radio communication did little to help the situation either, but Masi was taken out of the firing line ahead of the new season, with Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas appointed to alternatively replace him.
There was mild speculation ahead of the Miami Grand Prix that Masi may be in line to deputise for one of them should they become unavailable, and ben Sulayem has revealed that he would be “open” to that, adding that he was not personally involved in relieving him of his duties.
“I don’t know Michael very well. The decision was made by the World Council. It was human error on Michael’s part,” he said, quoted by the Mail.
“I have no personal issue [with Masi]. I don’t hate anyone. Michael is there and we might use him. 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.”
The Emirati confirmed that he does not believe in dropping someone entirely from the books for one mistake, and he reiterates that there were a multitude of shortcomings around race control, as mentioned in the report, that added to the situation in December.
“I didn’t get rid of Michael. He had a personal overload — safety delegate as well as race director. He made a mistake. It’s not as if we said it’s the end of Masi with the FIA,” added ben Sulayem.
“I don’t do that sort of thing. Even people who didn’t vote for me I embrace. We don’t think of individuals. We think of the operation itself.
“Our race structure was wrong organisationally. 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.”
Masi is not thought to have retained his other roles as safety delegate, track delegate or director of sports within the FIA after McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo described his compatriot’s schedule while in those positions as “nuts.”