The FIA and Formula 1 should back race director Michael Masi and not give in to calls for the Australian to be sacked.
That’s according to former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who believes that Masi made the right call at the season-ending 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen entered the curtain closer level on points, and the Mercedes driver looked set to win his eighth F1 crown after passing the Dutchman at the start to take the lead of the grand prix.
But, late drama struck, with Nicholas Latifi crashing his Williams and consequently bringing out the Safety Car.
Verstappen used this as an opportunity for a cheap pit-stop, while Hamilton stayed out on his worn tyres as his Mercedes team didn’t want to risk him losing track position so late in the race.
After initially ruling that none of the lapped cars would be allowed to un-lap themselves, Masi changed his mind and allowed only the five lapped runners between the leaders to overtake the Safety Car.
This gave Verstappen a clear run at Hamilton on the final lap, and the Red Bull driver took his chance and passed the Briton to secure his maiden Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship.
On the final lap, a furious Hamilton claimed the race was being “manipulated,” and the Silver Arrows protested the race result.
This was rejected by the stewards in Abu Dhabi, and Mercedes expressed their intention to appeal this decision.
However, they withdrew this a few days later, following the FIA announcing it would launch an investigation into the closing stages of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It was later reported that Mercedes withdrew their intention to appeal after agreeing a “quid pro quo” with the FIA that will result in Masi being relieved of his duties as race director ahead of the 2022 season.
Mercedes reportedly denied this, and there is yet no indication that Masi won’t continue to serve as race director this upcoming season.
Commenting on the calls for Masi to be fired, particularly from Hamilton fans, Ecclestone defended the Australian and praised him for ensuring the season finale didn’t end behind the Safety Car.
“I see no reason why Michael Masi should leave his post,” Ecclestone said.
“It would have been terrible to end that last race under the Safety Car. If he had, Michael would be in trouble for that. He is a good man, the FIA should support him.”
Earlier this week, a poll by Formula1News.co.uk found that 78.3 percent of readers believe Masi should be replaced as race director.