Verstappen branded a ‘brute’ as ex-rally champion backs FIA’s decision to fire Masi

The double rally champion has branded Max Verstappen a "brute" after a controversial season of racing in 2021.

Two-time World Rally champion Walter Rohrl has aimed a torrent of scathing reviews at Formula 1, and it seems no one is safe from the German’s wrath.

It all follows the controversial Safety Car restart at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix during which Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen were battling for the championship in the last race of the 2021 season.

Hamilton looked set to comfortably claim his record eighth world championship, but a late crash for Williams’ Nicholas Latifi brought out the Safety Car and prompted a stop from Verstappen.

Having initially ruled that no lapped runners would be allowed through, race director Michael Masi contradicted his earlier decision by allowing only the five cars between Hamilton and Verstappen go, resulting in the Dutchman using his fresh soft tyres to traverse the 37-year-old and claim his maiden championship on the very last lap.

Mercedes were left livid, and promised to hold the FIA “accountable” for the enquiry they are currently conducting into the late events in December.

Former Formula 1 driver Stefan Johansson then stated that multiple people within the sport were telling him that they wouldn’t bother tuning in next season, and Rohrl would appear to be one of the many that has no residual energy or patience to persist with the pinnacle of motorsport.

“I can save time and fool myself,” he said, adding that he would not “waste a minute” tuning in to any more races.

Since then, 1996 world champion Damon Hill has told fans of Hamilton to “get over” the Briton’s cruel defeat but, while Rohrl may not be a Hamilton fan per se, he does not appear displaced to do so.

New FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem has recently removed Masi from his duties and put in place a new structure so that new race directors, Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, can operate in a calmer, more pragmatic environment.

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The German equivocated his feelings when asked about Masi’s removal.

“Unfortunately, rightly so. I have no sympathy for such decisions,” he stated.

He also took issue with the new cars for 2022. Ground effect has returned to F1 as the aerodynamics have vastly reduced, and the tyres have been increased to 18 inches in size to allow for closer racing.

Many believe that this is a positive step for the sport, but the 74-year-old disagrees.

“I think equalising the performance is nonsense,” he lamented.

“It looks like they would prefer if they all crossed the finish line side by side in two rows of ten. For me, I have a different understanding of racing.”

Verstappen, having taken 10 race wins and finished on the podium 18 times last year, was also on the receiving end of Rohrl’s anger, and the German is particularly unimpressed with the 24-year-old’s race-craft.

“He certainly drives a car very well, but as a driver he’s a brute. He drives like a wild axe in the forest,” he said of the new world champion.

While Rohrl has vowed to stay away from F1 this year, one would hope that the quality of the racing in 2022 will be good enough to entice him and many others back.