Michael Masi's job as Formula One's race director may be in jeopardy as a result of the ongoing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix investigation.
Speaking to Austrian newspaper Voralberger Nachrichten, FIA official Peter Bayer, who will make the proposals based on the results from the probe, said, “Michael has done a great job in many ways. We definitely don't want to lose him. We told him that, but also that there is a possibility that there may be a new race director.
“I can only make proposals to the World Council, and they will definitely include Michael.”
Max Verstappen’s victory and world champion title came with controversy in December. A late safety car came out for a Nicholas Latifi crash with just a few laps to go. Red Bull brought in Verstappen to switch to soft tires, but Lewis Hamilton had to stay out on his hard tires, or he would have sacrificed the lead.
Five lapped cars sat between Hamilton and Verstappen as the racers drove around the track, behind the safety car for the final laps. Red Bull manager Christian Horner asked F1 race director Michael Masi over radio about the situation: “Why aren’t we getting these cars out of the way? We only need one racing lap.”
After the exchange, in a surprising and controversial move, Masi decided on lap 57 of 58 to allow those five cars to overtake the safety car. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff yelled over the race radio to Masi about the decision, as it placed Verstappen right on Hamilton's tail for a one-lap mad dash to the finish.
Not all of the lapped cars were allowed to unlap themselves, creating even more confusion among the drivers. Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher were three other lapped drivers, and the first two—Ricciardo and Stroll—were in-between Verstappen in second-place, and Carlos Sainz in third.
The race restarted with Verstappen just behind Hamilton, and the 24-year-old retook the lead on the final lap to win the race and the title. Formula One stewards later dismissed both of Mercedes’ protests concerning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the controversial restart.
Bayer revealed that even if the team had successfully appealed the results, there would have likely been a race result annulment, in which case Verstappen would still have been crowned World Champion.
“Masi had several options in those seconds when he had to decide, all according to regulations,” Bayer said. “He could have finished the race under safety car, he could have stopped [red flag as in Baku], but Nicholas Latifi's accident would not have justified it. Or he could have done what he did.”
Wolff previously said he and Hamilton are “disillusioned” with Formula One given the outcome, and these findings could reportedly determine whether the British star will continue to compete or retire, per ESPN.
The FIA launched its investigation into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix earlier this month, and the findings will be released on March 18, two days before the start of the 2022 season. Although it is still early on, Bayer discussed some of his findings: team principals will no longer be allowed to speak to the race director via radio during events, the need for the race director to have support and the fact that some of the race director's responsibilities must be delegated to different people.
“There will be a division of the diverse tasks of the race director, who is also sporting director, safety and track delegate,” Bayer said. “That was just too much.”
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