BBC provides update on Wolff’s talks with Ben Sulayem and Masi’s status

© Sebastian Kawka for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix ltd.

On Friday FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff held talks regarding the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix controversy. BBC’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson provides an update.

The talk between Wolff and Ben Sulayem is the first in a series of meetings the FIA president has planned to hold with F1 team bosses, regarding the controversial ending of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, among other matters.

BBC’s Andrew Benson provides an update.

“New FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem held talks with Mercedes Formula 1 team principal Toto Wolff on Friday, the first of a series of meetings between the Emirati and F1 team bosses to dig into the solutions to the controversy arising from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix,” Benson wrote.

“But there remain questions as to the timeline of the inquiry stages laid out by the FIA on Thursday, and as to whether the organisation fully understands the threat to its credibility created by this situation.”

Benson then digs into the problematic way in which the FIA has handled the situation thus far.

“The FIA promised this inquiry three days after Abu Dhabi. But work on it did not start until last week.

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“And Ben Sulayem’s meeting with Wolff happened a little over a month after the Abu Dhabi race. This is a delay that some in the sport find inexplicable, even allowing for Christmas.

“The impression is that the FIA was initially working under the belief that the issue would go away as time passed. Hamilton’s indirect intervention this week has dismissed that idea for good.

“Mercedes prefer not to comment for now, and the FIA has failed to respond to requests as to how Ben Sulayem’s meeting with Wolff went.”

According to Benson, race director Michael Masi’s position appears to be one of the most pressing issues in this situation.

“Central in all this is the position of Masi. The controversy in Abu Dhabi was by far the biggest of his time as race director, but it was not the only one.

“As a person, Masi is widely liked. But the 2021 season was marked by a series of complaints from drivers and teams as to the consistency and clarity of decision-making.

“And it is fair to say that in his professional role Masi has lost the trust of many – if not all – of the teams and drivers.

“A new race director seems to many insiders a minimum starting point for any reorganisation that follows this inquiry.

“Beyond the general lack of trust in Masi’s suitability for the role, it is hard to imagine how the new season could start with Hamilton in a Mercedes and Masi still running race control. In the wake of Abu Dhabi, that does not look to anyone like a sustainable situation.

“And if Masi did stay in his role, it is unlikely this controversy would ever end – the next mistake made would drag all it up all over again.”

Ultimately Benson says “it seems inevitable that Masi will be replaced as race director”, and proceeds to list two names as a possible replacements.

One is Scott Elkins, “who performs the role for the FIA’s all-electric Formula E championship and the DTM German touring car series”.

The other is Steve Nielsen, “a former sporting director of the Renault and Williams teams who has held the same title for F1 under managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn since 2017”.

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