Update on the FIA’s Abu Dhabi inquiry – Some teams want Masi out

© Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

BBC’s Andrew Benson says “there is widespread acceptance across the sport that race director Michael Masi failed to follow the rules correctly”.

The FIA is currently in the middle of an investigations into the controversial ending of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. BBC’s Andrew Benson provides an update.

“Formula 1 is planning a new race-management structure in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the problems at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix,” Benson wrote.

“There is widespread acceptance across the sport that race director Michael Masi failed to follow the rules correctly during a late safety-car period in the title-deciding race.

“That resulted in Red Bull’s Max Verstappen passing Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to beat the Mercedes driver to the title.

“Governing body the FIA has been seeking the teams’ views on the matter. The inquiry launched after Abu Dhabi is still ongoing and no concrete conclusions have yet been reached.

“But sources have told BBC Sport that the FIA’s plans are to introduce a series of safeguards that will leave the race director freer to make decisions in a calmer environment.

“Many insiders admit that Masi made a series of operational errors in the closing laps at Yas Marina that were contrary to the rules and accepted protocols – and there remain serious questions about his future in the role.

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“At the same time, it has been accepted that the Australian was left exposed, isolated and under too much pressure in the final laps of the race.

“A support structure is being planned for the race director, insiders say. This is likely to include a barrier between that role and the teams to avoid the direct lobbying to which Masi was subjected from the team bosses of both Mercedes and Red Bull in Abu Dhabi.

“Revisions to the operations of the stewards – who are independent of the race director and decide on penalties for breaches of the rules – are also being considered.”

Benson then went on to say that Michael Masi’s role as race director is in serious doubt.

“Removing Masi and finding a new race director is a recommendation some of the teams have made to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, BBC Sport has learned.

“Some senior insiders say they cannot see how Masi can credibly remain in his role into another season, arguing not only that Abu Dhabi fatally undermined his credibility, but that the errors he made there were merely the biggest and latest of a series over the course of the 2021 season and before.

“And high-level sources say that the most likely scenario is that a new race director will be installed for the 2022 season.

“However, there is far from unanimity on the matter. Other teams are said be either ambivalent as to whether Masi stays or would have no problem with it, as long as a more effective support system was put in place around him.”

Benson then provided an update on how the FIA’s inquiry is proceeding and what the next steps are.

  • Ben Sulaymen held consultations with all team bosses to “seek their views on what went wrong in Abu Dhabi and what changes could be made to militate against a repeat”.
  • As part of the inquiry the FIA’s secretary general for motorsport and executive director of single-seaters Peter Bayer participated in a meeting of the teams’ sporting directors last week.
  • Michael Masi chaired the meeting, but BBC learned that he “recused himself when the subject turned to the operation of the safety car in Abu Dhabi and the consequences and ramifications of that”.
  • At the meeting it was agreed that “in future the race director’s actions have to be predictable – it was Masi’s improvisations around and failure to follow the rules in Abu Dhabi that led to the outcry after the race”.
  • The next step for Bayer is to meet with F1 drivers and seek their views on Abu Dhabi and other matters.
  • After this, there will be a meeting of the F1 Commission scheduled for February 14, and it will involve the teams, the FIA and Formula 1. It is expected that the FIA’s proposed changes will be discussed there.
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