‘I think it’s wrong’: Button blames radio communication for Abu Dhabi GP controversy

Michael Masi was hounded with incessant radio communication from Red Bull and Mercedes throughout the 2021 season.

Former Formula 1 driver Jenson Button does not believe that race director Michael Masi was entirely to blame for the controversy at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and suggests that radio communication between teams and race control “needs to be changed.”

Sir Lewis Hamilton was comfortably leading the season finale in December from title rival Max Verstappen, but Masi was forced to deploy the Safety Car when Nicholas Latifi hit the barrier late on.

With so few laps remaining, Mercedes felt as though losing track position by pitting the Briton was too great a risk were the grand prix to finish under a caution but Verstappen, with nothing to lose, opted to bolt on a fresh set of soft tyres.

This left five lapped runners between the pair, and the 44-year-old initially elected to leave them all in position to accommodate as many racing laps as possible.

But a brake fire on the stricken Williams elongated the Safety Car period, as pointed out by Karun Chandhok, leaving us with just one lap of racing.

Masi would then renege on his prior call by permitting only the five between the leaders go, and the Dutchman would pass his rival on the very last lap to become the 34th F1 world champion.

Further controversy arrived in the fact that Red Bull suggested to Masi that they only needed to secure one lap of racing by letting the lapped runners go, and the race director is accused by many fans of complying to their demands.

New FIA executive director of single-seaters, Peter Bayer, has been moved across by new president Mohammed ben Sulayem to supervise the Australian, and he has previously suggested that he will allow only one member of each team to speak directly with race control during events.

Button agrees that excessive radio communication makes Masi’s job a lot harder than it needs to be.

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“Maybe that needs to be changed, maybe they shouldn’t have their opinions voiced to Masi and maybe that’s a way forward so Masi can make the decision on his own,” he told Sky Sports.

“I think after the race the teams can go and talk to Masi but during the race I think it’s wrong. There’s so much emotion coming from the teams.

“For Masi it’s difficult because there’s so much adrenaline and a lot of people watching what he does.”

The 2009 world champion maintains that it might be judicious to simply let the stewards and race control do their job.

“I think it’s better that the stewards can discuss it between themselves and come up with a decision, and obviously have the rulebook in front of them as well,” he added.

For now, it is unclear as to whether Masi will be able to keep his role as race director heading into the 2022 season but, following a meeting earlier this week, the FIA have said that further details of their ongoing enquiry into December’s events will be revealed in the “coming days.”