‘I don’t want to speak to him ever again’: Hard feelings remain between Wolff and Masi

Michael Masi was removed as race director after the controversial end to the 2021 championship.

Toto Wolff, Christian Horner and Max Verstappen have all sat down with Sky Sports to talk about the infamous Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the end of last year in which the Dutchman claimed his maiden F1 title.

Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton entered the final round of 2021 level on points, and the Briton had looked set to seal his record eighth championship until a Nicholas Latifi crash extracted the Safety Car.

Race director Michael Masi was accused of contravening Safety Car protocol following some interesting conversations with Horner and Red Bull when he allowed a limited number of lapped runners to pass the Safety Car ahead of the final lap, leading Verstappen to take the championship on the very last lap of the race.

Sporting director Jonathan Wheatley had suggested that Masi did not need to let the lapped cars make it all the way round to the back of the pack due to the time constraints, while Horner told the Australian that only “one racing lap” was necessary.

Wolff, in the new documentary titled “Duel: Hamilton vs Verstappen,” indicated that the 44-year-old was too easily swayed by Red Bull.

“Jonathan Wheatley has done his job,” he said.

“He’s turned Michael Masi, the race director, not only in Abu Dhabi but before, and probably Max owes him a lot.”

New FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem has since removed Masi from his position and replaced him with a combination of Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who will be supported by former deputy race director Herbie Blash and a virtual control room.

The Mercedes team principal, having previously been “disillusioned” with the sport, is now ready to “move on,” but has no intentions of crossing paths with the now former race director again.

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“I haven’t spoken to him and I don’t want to speak to him ever again,” he added.

“His decisions were wrong and I’m sure that he regrets them. The FIA should have seen much earlier that there was a problem. There was a problem with the structure. There was a problem of personalities.”

He suggested that Masi manipulated the result and set the scores back to zero despite the comfortable margin by which the seven-time champion was leading.

“It’s like a football game that is 1-0 for one team and suddenly the referee says, ‘now it’s golden goal. 0-0, whoever scores the next goal wins,’” he stated.

“‘And by the way, we have to play without boots.'”

The Austrian has no problem accepting that Verstappen is a worthy champion, but affirms that the championship has been tainted by what happened in December.

“I feel for Max. He merits the world championship… but there’s only talk about Abu Dhabi,” he added.

Verstappen ultimately sealed the championship through a diving move into Turn five, and it was symbolic of the daring, bold and instinctive moves he has made throughout his young career.

He believes this is what cultivated his success in 2021.

“Sometimes I have to take risks and try to dive up the inside or try to force a move. But, at the end of the day, that’s my style and that’s how I’ve won more races than I’ve lost,” he said.

Horner sympathises with Masi, and does not actually believe he violated any sporting regulations by restarting the race in the manner that he did.

“He didn’t break the rules,” he stated.

“He perhaps applied the rules slightly differently in that circumstance but there was nothing he did that actually contravened the rules.”

The 48-year-old has previously revealed that the Australian has received death threats for his part in the controversy, and Verstappen does not believe it is fair to remove Masi due to a call he made in the interests of racing.

“You can always argue was it right, was it wrong, what he did in Abu Dhabi,” he added.

“But I think what Michael stood for was always racing.

“I think it’s very harsh what they did to him and they really put him into the ground.”

Wittich and Freitas were in position during the first pre-season test in Barcelona, and will alternate in the role in 2022.