Formula 1 analyst and former driver Martin Brundle fears Michael Masi could become a ‘sacrificial lamb’ to settle tensions ahead of the 2022 season. The FIA-appointed race director played a big role in Max’s controversial win Verstappen at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and it has been suggested that Mercedes have been pushing for the official to be removed.
Little has been heard of Lewis Hamilton since he was denied a record eighth F1 world championship at Yas Marina, with rumors the Briton could yet retire.
If this is any indicator as to Hamilton’s anger over the Abu Dhabi result, there may still be time for the FIA to make some management changes.
It was Masi who made the last-minute decision to eliminate all the leading cars that separated leader Hamilton from Verstappen before a final lap shootout in Abu Dhabi.
The Red Bull leader trailed Hamilton by around 11 seconds when Nicolas Latifi crashed with five laps remaining, and Verstappen fully capitalized after changing to fresh tyres.
Masi’s case was not helped by the fact that Red Bull team principal Christian Horner spoke to him over the radio, while his Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff protested the decision.
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“What’s really important here for the FIA and for Formula 1 is that it’s not swept under the rug and just left for a few weeks and then overtaken by new 2022 cars, and testing, and so on. immediately,” he added.
“We need to understand what happened and why it won’t happen again.
“We need to reassure fans that what they are seeing is real, authentic and that they are giving up their free time to watch something that is real competition.”
Masi was inadvertently promoted to race director following the sudden death of his predecessor Charlie Whiting shortly before the start of the 2019 F1 season.
It has been reported that Hamilton’s future in the sport will depend on the results of the Abu Dhabi investigation and whether or not Masi stays in his current position.
Not content with Masi being the only party punished, it is understood that Mercedes also want to see Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s single-seater technical matters officer, relieved of his duties.
Hamilton still has two seasons remaining on his Mercedes contract and only needs one more championship to surpass Michael Schumacher’s record for overall titles.
The 37-year-old was also denied the chance to join Schumacher as the second driver to win five consecutive F1 crowns as Verstappen won his maiden title.
Despite any apparent desire by the FIA to offer a scapegoat, Brundle is right to say that a fair and proper diagnosis from Abu Dhabi is the real cure for the sport.
Teams and drivers need clarity and reassurance that similar controversies will be avoided in the future, although that may not be enough to save Masi’s position.