The FIA is investigating Michael Masi / Red Bull radio messages

© Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

The FIA has confirmed to BBC that they are investigating Abu Dhabi radio messages that suggest Michael Masi was “reacting to Red Bull’s suggestions as to how to end a safety-car period”.

BBC’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson reports he has received confirmation from the FIA that the organization is aware of the radio messages between Red Bull and race director Michael Masi in the closing moments of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“The FIA says it knows about radio messages from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that have raised fresh questions about last year’s title-decider,” Benson writes.

“The messages seem to be further evidence of race director Michael Masi reacting to Red Bull’s suggestions as to how to end a safety-car period. And Masi echoes Red Bull’s language in a response he gives to Mercedes.

“A spokesman for Formula 1’s governing body said: ‘We are aware of this and it is part of the investigation’.”

Benson goes on to explain the context of these radio messages.

“In the radio messages, Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley is heard advising Masi on how to deal with lapped cars that are on track between the leaders as he attempts to organise a restart before the laps run out.

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“At the time, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was on new tyres behind Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on old rubber, which meant that if the race was resumed Verstappen would have a huge advantage and would likely win the race and championship.

“Wheatley says: ‘Those lapped cars; you don’t need to let them go right the way around and catch up with the back of the pack. You only need to let them go, and then we’ve got a motor race on our hands’. Masi replies: ‘Understood’.

“After the race, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff gets on the radio to tell Masi that what he has done is ‘not right’. Masi replies: ‘Toto, it’s called a motor race, OK?’

“The radio transmissions are not new – they were on a video released by Formula 1 on 16 December, four days after the race – but the one from Wheatley appears to have missed general circulation in the storm that followed.

“Their emergence into the public arena – they were trending on Twitter on Wednesday with the hashtag #F1xed – has come days before the FIA is due to reveal the outcome of its inquiry into Abu Dhabi to a meeting of the F1 Commission next Monday.

“And it fits an impression of Masi acting in Red Bull’s favour during the race and against Mercedes’ interests.

“Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had previously said to Masi: ‘Why aren’t we getting these lapped cars out of the way? You only need one racing lap’.”

Benson then reiterates that Lewis Hamilton’s participation in the 2022 F1 championship depends on the results of the FIA’s investigation.

“Hamilton, who lost the championship in the controversial ending of the race, will not decide whether to return to F1 this year until he has seen the results of the FIA inquiry.

“Race director Michael Masi’s failure to apply the rules correctly allowed Max Verstappen to overtake Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the last race of 2021,” Benson concluded.

It seems that more and more of the mainstream Formula 1 media is not shying away from calling the situation as it is.

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