Michael Masi admits he got ‘help’ later than he should’ve amid Lewis Hamilton fans’ abuse

Michael Masi was judged to have made a 'human error' in the closing laps of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Former F1 race director Michael Masi made an appearance in the paddock last weekend at the Australian Grand Prix, due to his current role overlapping with the third round of the 2023 F1 season.

Masi hadn’t been seen in the paddock since the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the race where he incorrectly dealt with the ending of a Safety Car, a mistake labelled by the FIA as a ‘human error’.

That mistake saw Lewis Hamilton lose the victory and an unprecedented eighth World Championship, something which has seen Masi suffer from horrific online abuse and death threats.

He ultimately left the FIA last year and became the head of the V8 Supercars Commission in Australia, which is why he was at the Albert Park Circuit.

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The V8 Supercars are commonly part of the support-bill at the Australian GP, meaning Masi was in the paddock due to his job.

It did put him in a difficult position, though, given that there are still plenty of emotions present in and around the paddock linked to that race in 2021.

As a result, Masi was “a little nervous” about returning to the paddock, especially as he was faced with boos on his way into the venue.

“I was a little nervous on Wednesday, when I first came in, but you have seen with your own eyes the kind reception,” Masi told Sportsmail.

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Masi was placed into the race director role in 2019 following the tragic death of Charlie Whiting, with the Australian having arguably not been fully prepared for the appointment so soon.

As a result of suddenly taking on the toughest job in F1 at a time when the sport was rapidly expanding and going through the pandemic, the Aussie spent almost the entire year travelling.

Reflecting on his time being F1 race director, he admits that family events are now so much more important to him, given how much be missed whilst working at the pinnacle of motorsport.

Masi also explained how he told his family to avoid reading or listening to any media after the 2021 season had finished, due to it being a “toxic place”.

“I loved the job but you don’t realise the impact travelling so much has on you,” Masi revealed.

“When we last met in 2021, I literally lived on a plane. The joys of being able to cook a meal at home, being able to catch up with relatives are now open to me.

“My only living grandparent, Agusta, is 89 and is 10 minutes down the road. She can’t speak a word of English (both sides of his family ancestry being Italian) and she loves the fact I go to see her and have a coffee with her. Those little things. You don’t realise what they mean. Weddings, birthdays.

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“When I stopped at the FIA, I told my parents, “Those days are done for me”. I had told them after the Abu Dhabi fallout not to bother reading or watching anything. It’s not healthy. The place can be a very toxic place. In many ways social media can be a great tool, but not so great in others.

“I have spent time looking after myself. It’s done me good. It’s what I needed. I spent a lot of time getting into physical shape but didn’t spend enough on the mental side for a long while.

“There were people I was speaking to privately, my then partner – she was an amazing support – and friends and family.

“As for professional help, I got that, but probably later than I should have done – the latter part of last year, but things had largely calmed down by then.”