Rumours of Masi sacking in Mercedes ‘quid pro quo’ unravel

Michael Masi has been under immense pressure since the controversial end to the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen wins the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton.v1

Reports suggesting that race director Michael Masi has been relieved of his duties have been cooled after he and Nicholas Tombazis appeared absent in the FIA’s January organisational structure chart.

Masi has been the talk of Formula 1 since the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021, as Max Verstappen beat rival Sir Lewis Hamilton to the championship in a controversial turn of events.

The title protagonists entered the final round of the season level on points after a remarkable season of chaotic racing over the previous 21 grand prix, and Verstappen beat his rival to pole position in the UAE capital.

Hamilton flew past the Dutchman at the start of the race, streaked clear and looked set to comfortably seal the title with a handful of laps remaining.

READ: #MasiOut: Hamilton fans launch fresh push to oust race director

In typical 2021 fashion though, there was to be one last twist in the tale, and it was the most controversial one yet.

Williams driver Nicholas Latifi put his car in the wall late on, forcing Masi to deploy the Safety Car.

Verstappen pitted for fresh rubber while Hamilton stayed out, leaving five lapped runners between the two leaders.

With time constraints threatening to see the race end behind the Safety Car, Masi allowed only the cars between the pair to un-lap themselves, putting the 24-year-old – on fresh tyres – onto the back of Hamilton.

Article continues below

Verstappen then used his tyre advantage to pass Hamilton on the very last lap of the 2021 season to claim his maiden Formula 1 championship.

Seething, Mercedes protested the result, and later lodged an intention to appeal after seeing their initial protest rejected by the stewards in Abu Dhabi.

However, they dropped this, instead settling for an investigation into the events of the end of the 2021 season by the FIA.

READ: Ferrari’s battle with McLaren didn’t lead to compromises on 2022 car

Rumours then spread then the serial Constructors’ Champions had struck a deal with the FIA to oust the Australian race director in return for dropping the appeal, but these were dismissed by Mercedes, who insisted that no such deal had been reached.

The reported agreement was also said to have involved head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis.

A “senior source” had informed the BBC that this bargain was struck, and further fuel was added to the flaming fire when the FIA released their organisational structure chart for this month.

Both Masi and Tombazis were absent from the list, but have shed light on why this is.

It is all part of a reshuffle from newly elected FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, who took over from Jean Todt at the end of 2021.

The Emirati listed FIA general secretary of motorsport, Peter Bayer, as the head of the single-seater department, and it has now surfaced that he will be the immediate boss of Masi and Tombazis, which is the reason neither of them appeared on the chart.

READ: ‘Senior source’ warns Hamilton situation could get worse

It now seems that Masi will work for Bayer on the sporting side of single-seater matters, while Tombazis is set to report to him on the technical side.

It remains to be seen if Hamilton will return to Formula 1 in 2022, with the Briton being eerily quiet since the season finale and Wolff offering no assurances that his “disillusioned” driver will still be on the grid this upcoming season.

Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP after being defeated by Max Verstappen.v1

Follow us on Google News to never miss an F1 story