#VoidLap58: Hamilton fans call for Verstappen to be stripped of championship after Masi gets sacked

Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich will alternate as race director from 2022, and will be supported by a virtual control room.

Fans of Sir Lewis Hamilton have renewed their calls for a reversal of the championship classification following the removal of race director Michael Masi.

Masi took on the role as race director in 2019 following the tragic passing of Charlie Whiting, and the Australian began juggling this alongside his positions as safety delegate, track delegate and director of sports.

He would then oversee 34 races in 2019 and 2020 with very few dramas, although he was criticised for deploying a recovery vehicle onto a live circuit in Turkey in 2020.

However, with an intense championship battle between Hamilton and Max Verstappen last year came an enormous amount of pressure, and the spotlight was very quickly turned on race control with the introduction of broadcasted radio communications.

Mercedes and Red Bull frequently contacted Masi in an attempt to persuade him in their favour during various incidents in 2021, and it all culminated in one of the most dramatic title finishes of all time.

The title protagonists entered the final round of the season level on points following a tumultuous year, and Hamilton found himself comfortably leading until late on when Nicholas Latifi’s crash brought out the Safety Car.

With so few laps remaining in the race, Mercedes recognised that pitting could cost the Briton the title, so they opted to stay out and keep track position – this was partially down to Sergio Perez, whose defence midway through the race meant that the Briton did not have a pit window back to the 24-year-old.

Verstappen, with nothing to lose, came into the pits and bolted on a fresh set of soft tyres, leaving five lapped runners between himself and the seven-time world champion.

Initially, the 44-year-old ruled that no lapped runners would be permitted to get their lap back, but Karun Chandhok has since posited that a brake fire on Latifi’s Williams extended the Safety Car period and left the Australian with a decision to make ahead of the final lap.

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Masi would then allow just five lapped runners to go through with one lap to go of the race, leading Verstappen to pass his rival to seal his maiden championship in dramatic and contentious style.

Mercedes were left fuming by the decision, but would eventually rescind an appeal into the Championship Standings.

Some perceived that this was in exchange for Masi’s sacking, but the Australian is expected to remain at the FIA in some capacity after the FIA commission, having held a meeting with the teams on Monday, decided it was best to take him out of the firing line.

However, this is not sufficient for the Hamilton “crusaders,” as they were recently labelled by journalist Joe Saward, and many of them are still calling for the final lap of the race at the Yas Marina Circuit to be voided and for the 37-year-old to be awarded the championship.

One user suggests that the Dutchman was not worthy of his championship, accusing him of “dirty driving,” while another said “the spirit of the people is greater than the corrupted system.”

Further comments using #VoidLap58 suggested that removing Masi as race director – and replacing him with Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas – was only the “first step.”

Masi’s position within the FIA will likely become clear in the next month, but the likelihood of the governing body changing the result and taking Verstappen’s title from him would appear extremely low, particularly this far removed from the chaotic events in Abu Dhabi.

The FIA will conclude their enquiry into the season finale on 18 March, two days before the first race of the 2022 season in Bahrain.