Revealed: Masi remains on FIA payroll as ben Sulayem hints at race director’s return

Michael Masi was dropped from his role as Formula 1 race director after his controversial handling of the 2021 season finale.

In an astonishing admission by FIA President Mohammed ben Sulayem, controversial race director Michael Masi might be on the cusp of a return to Formula 1.

Masi was dropped from his role following the shocking end to the 2021 season, after the Australian failed to follow the rulebook in the closing laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

During the late safety car at the Yas Marina Circuit, Masi allowed only the cars between Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to unlap themselves, but no-one else.

Verstappen, who was on new soft tyres, whilst Hamilton was on very old hards, made light-work of the British driver when the final lap of racing was allowed to get underway.

The Dutchman went on to claim the 2021 title, and open a can full of worms for Masi.

The Mercedes F1 Team were outraged by the race director’s decision, after a number of rules were broken in the race’s final few laps.

READ: Hamilton slammed for making ‘big fuss’ with new race director

Whilst backing-up the pack before the safety car restart, Hamilton, who was the race leader at the time and on-track for his eighth title, stated over the radio that the race had been “manipulated”.

Prior to the 2022 season, Masi was sacked as the race director not by Ben Sulayem but by the World Motorsport Council.

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Ben Sulayem put Masi’ mistakes at the season finale down to “human error”, but was insistent when talking to the Daily Mail that the FIA haven’t gotten “rid” of the Australian.

“I didn’t get rid of Michael. He had a personal overload (of work) – safety delegate as well as race director. He made a mistake. It is not as if we said it is the end of Masi with the FIA.” he told SportsMail,

“I don’t do that sort of thing. Even people who didn’t vote for me, I embrace. We don’t think of individuals. We think of the operation itself.

“I don’t know Michael very well. The decision (to sack him as race director) was made by the World Council. It was human error on Michael’s part.”

As well as Hamilton, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff would be wildly against Masi returning to the sport.

Wolff recently referred to the race director as a “liability”, however, according to SportsMail, Masi remains on the FIA’s payroll.

“I spoke to him two days ago. I have no personal issue (with him). I don’t hate anyone,” ben Sulayem admitted.

“Michael is there and we might use him. I didn’t say we were getting rid of him. I said we might use him. He may be in a good place to use. We are open to everything.

“Our race structure was wrong organisationally. And though we have brought in two new race directors, I wouldn’t say we have got it all right yet. We need to clean the stables.

“It’s not like going to a supermarket and asking for some more stewards. You need firm and fair people, tolerant people. I am thinking, for example, of bringing in rally co-drivers, who have plenty of multi-tasking skills that are required, and training them up. We need a recruitment drive.

“This lack of people in the FIA needs to be addressed. I would like to see a minimum of three race directors, ideally by the beginning of next year,” he added.

For the 2022 season, two race directors were introduced, namely Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas.

The pair will rotate throughout the championship, with Freitas set to make his debut at the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix.

Wittich will still be in attendance at the event in Barcelona, just not in charge of the proceedings.