Norris reveals if he thinks Masi will get axed after Abu Dhabi scandal

Michael Masi has come under intense fire since the season-ending 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

McLaren drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris have both leaped to the defence of race director Michael Masi, sympathising with the numerous tasks that the 44-year-old needs to carry out.

Masi was plunged into his current role after the tragic passing of Charlie Whiting in 2019, but still needed to retain his position as safety delegate, sports director and track delegate.

He was often the focal point in 2021 following some contentious decisions, none more so than the season finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Sir Lewis Hamilton looked destined to secure his record eighth world championship at the Yas Marina Circuit, leading Max Verstappen by an emphatic margin before Nicholas Latifi crashed, bringing out the Safety Car.

Masi contravened an earlier decision by allowing only five lapped runners through past the Safety Car with one lap to go, seemingly prioritising a box office showdown over a fair sporting finish.

Verstappen would then pass the 37-year-old on the very last lap of the race to claim his maiden world championship.

Calls have since been made for the Australian to lose his job as race director, but new FIA executive director of single-seaters – Peter Bayer – has pledged to put in place a framework that eases the pressure on the already-occupied Masi.

Given the circumstances, Ricciardo reckons that his compatriot is doing a fine job, and just needs a little assistance from those around him on race weekends.

“It’s kind of a bit like a referee – you can’t win. You’re always going to have someone against you, it’s a little bit like that,” he told ESPN at McLaren’s 2022 car launch on Friday.

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“I’ve never sat through race control during a race so I don’t know how much is going on. But I guess in my head, trying to understand it all, some support is probably a bit of a simple solution to try and help out.”

The 32-year-old reiterates that Masi has a lot on his plate, and the diligence and preparation needed ahead of a race weekend is a lot for one person to deal with.

“He was telling me his schedule, where he’s been and where he’s going, and the amount of traveling he’s doing to venues before we get there. Back and forth, checking this and that,” he explained.

“His schedule is nuts. That in itself, you’ve then got fatigue and everything else…. Making big decisions is already quite tricky and complex. So probably some assistance is step one for that.”

Norris shares his team-mate’s opinion, insisting that the race director cannot always get everything right, but stressing that he always endeavours to do so.

Michael Masi in Qatar 2021.v1

“He’s been great for a lot of things. He got thrown in three years ago and of course, from my point of view, he’s done a better job every season,” he also told ESPN at the McLaren launch.

“It’s probably the first time things have not gone to plan. We always expect a lot as drivers as we always want things to be perfect so when they’re not, we’re going to complain and do on.

“He’s a nice guy, he does what he can. It would be a shame to see him go but I’m sure he’s going to stick around.”

For now at least, Masi is set to remain in his position ahead of the 2022 season that gets up and running on 20 March in Bahrain.