FIA indicates Masi may not continue as F1 race director

2022 F1 season

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FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi may not remain in the role for the new season following the controversial conclusion to the 2021 world championship.

The governing body’s secretary general for sport Peter Bayer, who is overseeing its review of the disputed season finale, has said a change of race director is among the options under consideration in response to the row over the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Masi has been a focus of criticism over his handling of a Safety Car period in the final laps of the race. A decision to quickly bring the Safety Car appeared to contradict the regulations, and he only allowed a portion of the lapped cars to un-lap themselves, in a break with convention.

Following the restart Lewis Hamilton was immediately passed by championship rival Max Verstappen. That sealed victory in the race and championship for the Red Bull driver.

Mercedes immediately protested the outcome of the race on two counts, both of which were rejected. It considered an appeal, but backed down three days after the race, confirming Verstappen as champion.

However the FIA agreed to review the events of the race, and Bayer has given the first indication of the direction its investigation has taken in an interview for Austrian newspaper Vorarlberger Nahrichten. He indicated one option is to divide the race director’s current responsibilities between multiple roles, to ease the pressure they are under.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2021
Analysis: Does F1 need a new race director – or deeper change – after Abu Dhabi restart row?
“The various tasks of the race director, who is also sports director, safety and course delegate, will be divided up,” said Bayer. “That was just too much.” The FIA is also looking into emulating the teams’ ‘mission control’ facilities to give remote support to the race director.

Masi took over as F1 race director at short notice when his predecessor, Charlie Whiting, passed away on the eve of the 2019 season. Bayer praised the job he had done but admitted the possibility of replacing him is being considered.

“Michael did a super job in many ways,” said Bayer, adding, “we definitely don’t want to lose him. We told him that, but also that there is a possibility that there could be a new race director. I can only make suggestions to the World Council and they will definitely include Michael.”

Bayer also emphasised that Masi’s desire to ensure the race did not finish behind the Safety Car had the backing of teams. “We also asked the teams whether their request not to finish a race under SC was still relevant, which they all answered in the affirmative.”

However the practice of allowing team principals to speak to the race director during a grand prix, as Mercedes’ Toto Wolff and Red Bull’s Christian Horner both did in Abu Dhabi, will end.

“We will abolish the ordeal of the race management and make massive changes,” said Bayer. “The team bosses will no longer be able to tune in on this channel. In future, the race director will be able to concentrate on his task and will no longer be distracted.”

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Keith Collantine
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  • 130 comments on “FIA indicates Masi may not continue as F1 race director”

    1. Translation: get ready to hear that Lewis “will be ready to race in 2022” after getting Masi fired.

      1. @joshgeake Couple things on that. It doesn’t sound like Masi will be fired, but rather given help, along with some changes to some procedures. Nor would this be a case of LH ‘getting Masi fired.’ LH is an innocent bystander and the aggrieved party in this but it ends there. The rest is in FIA’s hands. As to LH, we don’t even know if he blames Masi, or is it the system…FIA in general, who knows.

        I’m convinced LH is going to race this year and that he is not waiting for some resolution before he commits. Why do I say that? Because imho we would have heard of TW being on the hunt for his replacement as the onus would be on LH to give TW enough lead time to set someone else up in that seat. In other words imho LH has already told TW he will honour his contract. There’s no way, after all they’ve done together, that LH is waiting until the cusp of the season when some theoretical satisfactory-to-LH resolution is announced, to then tell TW what he is doing. LH will be racing this season. Or, we’ll hear very very soon, as it would be too hard to keep secret, that TW is on the hunt to replace LH. But realistically with a mere small numbers of weeks to go before they start testing? No way.

        1. on that note, though, it’s entirely possible that Wolff has Bottas in stand by and ready to step in at any time. No hunting would be needed

          1. @robbie @alfa145 Tend to agree with stefano, by this point, either Lewis has confirmed to TW that he’s racing and they’re just maximizing the pressure on FIA, or TW has told him to take his time deciding but has a replacement already lined up. The longer it continues, the more likely it seems LH will race in F1 this year. But still possible he walks away. I just hope he doesn’t go for the sabbatical option, almost always a bad move…

            1. @david-br @alfa But then surely we’d have heard of Alfa looking for a replacement for VB. No, I think it will have been the best kept secret in the history of F1, lol, if indeed LH has told TW he’s leaving and TW has already sorted a replacement. Not even that LH is still undecided therefore TW has sorted an emergency replacement. Not that I pour over all things F1 but for there to not even be articles speculating on what TW is doing for a contingency plan is telling. Seems like most have little real concern that LH is leaving.

              Another aspect to this…as I opined in 2019/2020 when LH and TW were seeming to take forever to agree a contract extension and then the talk became that perhaps LH was going to make 2021 his final season, since at the time the contract extension was only for one year…there’s no way LH is the type to just walk from F1 without a lot of advance notice so he can enjoy his final season with all the accolades and attention that will inundate him. He’ll want to go out with a bang and have every race being promoted as ‘LH’s last race at this venue and that.’ No way he’ll do a KR and just half way through the season say ‘by the way this is my last,’ let alone just decide in the coming weeks to leave, and he’s never seen again at an F1 venue. No way.

            2. @robbie It would be naive to suppose that TW hasn’t been fielding a few ‘inquiries’ behind-the-scenes from drivers/agents offering to take up LH’s place if he retires. A lot of money is involved in LH’s contract and, by the same token, Mercedes would have money released by him leaving to ease through another contract. I get what you’re saying about Lewis doing a ‘final tour season’, but it’s discounting any sense of disillusionment he might have over Formula 1 as a viable racing competition. Understandable given you naturally downplayed what happened in Abu Dhabi, as a MV fan, but maybe missing the point somewhat. The ‘final tour’ full of accolades only really works if the Mercedes is competitive. If something disastrous (for the team) happens and they’re stuck in the midfield, it would be a fairly painful swan song I think. So if he stays, surely it has to be a 2 or 3 year deal to ensure Mercedes have time to bounce back, if necessary, and deliver a car in which LH can have a good season.

            3. @david-br For sure it would be understandable if as you say TW has made inquiries, and of course they do have drivers within their program, but I’m just surprised there hasn’t been a single leak about anything, nor does any media seem to be digging for evidence, nor failing finding anything, at least speculating on who will be in that car if LH quits.

              As to LH, any dissolution he will be feeling would be totally understandable, but I’m going to assume that he will be racing out his two year contract at a minimum, and I don’t envision him starting this season with some sort of permanent anger or scowl or what have you. That will only distract him. He’ll have heard the verdict on the last laps of the season, he’ll have to come to peace with whatever is decided, and he’ll have to move on and just take motivation from it. He probably has already done a lot of mental work to get past this and he’s prepared for whatever they decide, and then continue focussing on winning the next WDC, and that has to start with the minute he sits in his new car, if he wants to maximize his chances.

              I disagree about LH needing to go out with a competitive car or his swan song is ruined. He doesn’t have the luxury of time for that anyway. Odds are the car will be competitive, but if it is not that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. If he happens to not be in a Championship car for his final season, his fans will understand and will still be celebrating his record breaking career just as much, as each race weekend clicks by. His fans will be aggressively after tickets to fulfill their last chance to see him race in person, no matter from where on the grid. But sure, I can see him racing in 2024 if he hasn’t won his 8th and he senses better chances of doing that with a contract extension beyond his current one. Of course you are right that a competitive car would be ideal, but if it doesn’t happen that’s just racing. I have no doubt he will be in top 3 cars at a minimum, and in a series meant more for driver vs driver the rest will be up to him.

          2. @alfa145 A driver contracted to another team can’t really be a standby per se unless a given scenario involves the two RB-owned teams.

            1. Were Bottas to “get the call” I am sure that Alfa Romeo would be more than willing to do a swap, for a price of course.
              Bottom line, let The Hulk know that he should keep up the training.

      2. Blame the victim. Well done!

      3. Masi gift Masi fired, he should have followed the rules !

      4. Masi got Masi fired, he should have followed the rules !

      5. “Michael did a super job in many ways,” said Bayer, adding, “we definitely don’t want to lose him.”

        Translation: Masi will be race director (with added help) 7 weeks from now.

    2. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
      28th January 2022, 16:13

      As if anyone else would’ve done it differently because their name isn’t Masi. It’s the same in football: the coach is always the first to go when the player mock it up. But hey, easy scapegoat for the FIA and F1.

      1. I’m pretty sure that few would have chosen to ignore all written procedure and make up a new one when there were perfectly valid methods written in the rules to deal with it while still meeting all unofficial agreements.

        While I don’t think “getting Masi fired” is the solution to current issues, I won’t be surprised or saddened to hear of it. If I caused the company I was working for the amount of bad publicity Masi has, I would be expected to leave. Bringing the company/organisation/sport into disrepute is a very serious matter, especially for someone in as high profile and senior a position as Masi.

        1. I’m pretty sure that few would have chosen to ignore all written procedure and make up a new one when there were perfectly valid methods written in the rules to deal with it while still meeting all unofficial agreements.

          That wasn’t the verdict of the Stewards. But I guess you know it better.

          Masi has been inconsistent throughout the season which is bad in any sport, but the rules allowed him to make those decisions.

          1. Salty Ham fans are exactly like Toto, they tell the version of the story that they think is true

            1. As opposed to those who want to believe Hamilton is controlling F1 events whilst sitting atop his mountain lair.

            2. You’re a bit of an i.diot, aren’t you.

            3. You’re a bit of a salty Ham fan, aren’t you? 😂

          2. That wasn’t the verdict of the Stewards. But I guess you know it better.

            Actually it’s exactly the verdict of the stewards, they just said he was allowed to do so.

            1. Speaking of allowing someone do something against the rules, can we also remember Lewis cutting the corner at lap 1 and not receiving a penalty?

            2. Lap 1 rules are always applied subjectively. Max caused Lewis to cut the corner, no further action needed.

            3. In fact, the stewards have given the Race Director unlimited power over the safety car. He can call it in while there’s a 15 car pile-up on the main straight– because he has final authority over the safety car the way 15.3 was interpreted by the stewards.

              Unfortunately, 15.3 merely give him the authority to override the clerk of the course– not to override the rest of the rulebook.

    3. Thrilled to hear the team bosses won’t be able to push their agenda on the race director’s channel.

      Also love the thought of not having to hear Massi’s voice.

      1. I have to admit I’m disappointed. I think its important for teams to have comms with the race director. It can be very good for both the teams and the spectators if used correctly.

        Bauer said that Masi was distracted by this and that, quite frankly, is on Masi. He should have the authority to either turn off the radio or delegate to someone else if he’s feeling the pressure. Make the comms sensible, don’t ban them completely.

      2. @reg Sporting directors can still talk to him, so just because TPs can’t doesn’t mean we won’t hear Masi’s voice during a race anymore.

      3. And Toto’s voice. Oh no, I kinda loved that ;-)

      4. “Also love the thought of not having to hear Massi’s voice.”

        Are you kidding? Masi’s “It’s called a motor race. We went car racing” radio message to Toto was the best broadcasted message of 2021. And that’s with some stiff competition from the plethora of “that’s some dangerous driving” messages coming from Hamilton’s in car radio.

    4. I don’t think he was the perfect fit anyway, 2021 was ra eal parody in term of how races were handled, consistency was just an excuse to bend the rules many many times.
      Under Masi rules were a moving target, I’m not surprised if Mercedes tried to appeal, you manage your race based on written rules, that Masi interpreted sometimes very strangely to say the least.

      1. Most of the inconsistency was caused by the stewards, not Masi.

        1. Except when Masi chose to make a deal with a team instead of referring the matter to the stewards as he said he had the authority to do. Who gets to make a deal and who gets to go to the back of the grid is sort of important.

          1. The deals happened before anyway – not just Masi – but the broadcast of the conversation is new

        2. Yes and no, the stewards are indeed ultimately the ones who hand out penalties and they can also decide to investigate incidents to their own without Masi asking them to. However, the race director has a huge role in how the game is played – and the stewards are aware of that.

          You’re not going to have a steward investigate every instance of a driver crossing the white lines if it’s a long standing tradition among F1 race directors to claim that this is all just fine and OK. Maybe F1 would be better off if the stewards took a bit more power for themselves, but that’s not how it has worked so far.

    5. Not any excess is good. Obviously Masi made lots of mistakes last season, and not only in Abu Dhabi. But hopefully whoever comes as a new director makes things better and in a fair way, and not fearing a witch hunt by Mercedes. It would be terrible that once again we see the Mercedes drivers be left with no penalties at all for shortening the track at the start (like Mexico some years ago) or let them mix the tyres without applying the supposed penalty (Bahrain 2020). Rules should be fair for everything and everyone. Last year was a mess-up since the very first race (and hopefully the new race director states once and for all that the only track limits are the white line, and stop the policing of some turns only).

      1. Don’t ever tell Mercedes fans that most of the times their drivers weren’t penalized for things they should have been penalized, fia and every race director has always been against mercedes in every way possible

        Forget the Mexico 2016, the in in in in, the first lap in Abu Dhabi

        1. Ahah, that one became a meme!

        2. the in in in in

          Sorry to ask but what am I missing here?
          Outrageous decisions favoring you know whom have been par for the course since Hungaroring 2007. How could Charlie Whiting look at himself in the mirror after the Hockenheim crane, I’ll never understand. But I have no idea what’s that “in in in in” about.

      2. @omarr-pepper Applying a penalty for the tyre mix-up was unnecessary as Russell pitted on the earliest possible opportunity, i.e., the next time he reached pit entry. A different story had he continued.

        1. So no penalty for breach of the rules, then @jerejj.
          Doesn’t matter what they did to remedy it or when they did it. The action of breaking the rules is what penalties are for, not the results.

          Do you want consistency or not?

          1. Funny they say the exact opposite thing when a non Mercedes driver is penalized in similar circumstances

            1. ^——- Expected reply is expected. Thanks for being consistent about one thing, at least.

    6. I’m not too upset about this. We as fans don’t know exactly what went on behind the scenes but what happened in Abu Dhabi was absolutely shocking and if the FIA have decided Masi was to blame then it is right that he should go.

      Now the far more important thing that needs to happen is the scrapping of the absurd agreement that says the Grand Prix should finish under green flags if at all possible, which was also to blame for the shambles in Abu Dhabi, but I am concerned that that will continue into 2022 and there will be more stupid red flags for minor incidents in the final few laps, whoever the race director is.

      1. Now the far more important thing that needs to happen is the scrapping of the absurd agreement that says the Grand Prix should finish under green flags if at all possible

        Looking at the article, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Nor does it look like the rules are going to be tightened around when the race director can ignore the rules and make up new ones.

        Personally, I would say that, as the teams all want to “finish under green flags”, the agreement needs to be replaced with defined rules to ensure this happens wherever possible. Probably the easiest way would be to force a red flag if the SC isn’t going to leave a green lap at the end, but there are other methods which would achieve the same result. Anything would do, as long as it is codified in the rules with a defined procedure which everyone knows and understands in advance, and not just left to someone to improvise on the spot.

        1. Exactly. Teams agreed to finish under green flag conditions where possible. They certainly didn’t agree for Masi to make up whatever rules he wanted to ensure it happened.

        2. is the scrapping of the absurd agreement that says the Grand Prix should finish under green flags if at all possible

          Seriously? I can’t think of many things worse than finishing behind a SC.

          I agree that the Red Flag rules (not the use of it) are bad for the sport, but It would be easy to adjust those rules to make them fairer to all competitors.

          1. I don’t really care either way (, but if we want to avoid finishing under SC, there need to be rules to cover this. We shouldn’t have people improvising new and unseen procedures. Put in place written rules and procedures to fit this situation, and then everything is known in advance unquestionably above board and reputable.

        3. @drmouse A standardized stoppage for a late-race SC neutralization (for show’s sake) would be overkill.
          I agree with @f1frog & @mmertens.
          This obsession with finishing a race under racing conditions at all costs has to stop.
          Races ending under neutralized conditions on rare occasions isn’t bad, so people should stop being unreasonable.
          The most recent race, finishing with SC coming in on the last lap, is the 2015 Chinese GP, which happened forever ago in F1 terms.
          People didn’t make a fuss at the time, Canada the season before, nor even Brazil in 2012 despite that race being a WDC-decider, but something changed post-2019.
          A red-flag stoppage should be a resort only when truly necessary & justifiable on safety grounds, not for something manageable under SC like pre-2020.
          For instance, Kubica’s 2007 Montreal shunt – yes, that would’ve led to red in the last two seasons, but proves how unnecessary most (or all bar Grosjean’s fiery exit) within the last two seasons were.

          1. @jerejj I agree, for me, it isn’t a big deal to finish under the SC.

            However, there are a large number of people who think it should be avoided. If it is to be avoided, it should be done by a set, defined procedure, not by allowing officials to make up something each time.

      2. I for one agree that the best would be to stop all these unnecessary red flags, it feels like cheating. Red flags in my view should be used only to major safety issues, not to finish a race under green. It’s clear that regulations need to be amended to better cover all possible scenarios and have clear guidelines for the future. Also, if red flag continues to be employed at large as currently is, the least they could do is to avoid the mega gimmick standing starts and also not allowing tire changes under red flags (unless for safety reasons; and let everyone do if so). And even if it’s not “entertaining”, races should be allowed to end under SC. Maybe anti climatic, but at least this will maintain the sporting integrity.

    7. He was only doing what he was paid to do. Now Liberty are going to scapegoat him?

      1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
        28th January 2022, 17:40

        Masi did what the teams asked him to do, he used the discretion given to him by the rule book to finish the race under green flag condition.

        Only because Mercedes went into extreme sore loser mode, went completely overboard and way too far in their aggressive anti Masi PR campaign is FIA now blaming Masi.

        If Masi gets fired, Mercedes will continue their negatieve campaign rather than accept that this is racing and that they themselves are too blame for leaving Hamilton out on very old tires.