Does F1 need a new race director or other change after row?

  • F1 News

Before the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race weekend began, FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi took a proactive step to avoid a controversial conclusion to the championship.

In the regular event notes distributed to all competitors, Masi reminded them the FIA has the (seldom-used) power to confiscate points from drivers if they are deemed to have seriously infringed the rules.

Reading between the lines, this was a reminder that neither driver should assume they would be allowed to win the title by taking their rival out. It was an understandable step for Masi to take in light of what happened four days earlier in Jeddah, where the stewards deemed Max Verstappen had caused a collision with his title rival Lewis Hamilton. This was their third significant contact of the year after Silverstone (where Hamilton was the culprit) and Monza (Verstappen).

Given its implications, and the fact Verstappen stood to gain most from any collision in the finale, it was no surprise he and his Red Bull team bristled at such a public reminder that the FIA did not want any undue interference on the championship outcome. But of course, in the eyes of many, that was exactly what happened at the end of the race when Masi made a surprising break with convention to arrange a restart which ultimately swung the outcome of the world championship.

Masi became F1 race director in 2019His decision to allow only a portion of the lapped drivers to rejoin the lead lap – moving aside all the cars which separated leader Hamilton from second-placed Verstappen, and none of those behind the Red Bull driver – flew in the face of past practice. It led Mercedes to protest the outcome of the race; Once that was rejected they began making arrangements to lodge an appeal, only to back down from that move four days later having concluded that even if they won it would not restore Hamilton’s lost title.

Unsurprisingly, the winners and losers saw Masi’s decision differently. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff accused him of conjuring up a new interpretation of the rules which contradicted his past explanations and “robbed” Hamilton of the…

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