14 February 2022

Michael Masi’s future as F1 race director still in the balance following meeting

14 February 2022

Michael Masi’s future as Formula One’s race director remains in the balance following a crunch meeting of the sport’s major players in London on Monday.

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, and his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner, arrived at F1’s headquarters at St James’s Market awaiting the outcome of the FIA’s inquiry into last year’s controversial finale which saw Max Verstappen take the world championship.

But two months and two days after the contentious Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – a race Hamilton said was “manipulated” following Masi’s handling of a late safety car period – the Australian’s fate is seemingly to be determined, while the FIA’s investigation is still ongoing.

FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem chaired the four-hour summit and is expected to address the continued fallout from Abu Dhabi later this week – with a restructure of race control expected.

One source told the PA news agency: “The meeting was inconclusive. Not a lot of progress has been made.”

It is also understood that Masi was present for the talks.

Hamilton, described by Wolff as “disillusioned” after missing out on his eighth world title, will make his first public appearance since the debacle in the desert on Friday when Mercedes launch its new car at Silverstone.

In a statement, the FIA said: “The FIA president led detailed discussions of the 2021 Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen, right, alongside Red Bull team principal Christian Horner (PA) (PA Wire)

“Feedback from the Commission on matters raised will be incorporated into the President’s analysis and he will publicly present news of structural changes and action plan in the coming days.”

One school of thought is that Masi could be forced to take up a lesser role, with Portuguese Eduardo Freitas moving across from the World Endurance Championship to replace him.

But the under-fire Masi has found the support of a number of drivers in recent days, with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, British driver Lando Norris and his McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo all speaking up on his behalf.

In the final stages of the race on December 12, Masi ordered only the lapped cars between Hamilton and second-placed Verstappen through, providing the Dutchman, on fresh tyres, a shot at passing Hamilton – who was on old rubber.

Away from the continued Abu Dhabi fallout, the FIA did confirm a resolution has been found to stage three sprint races at Imola, Spielberg, and Interlagos.

The winner of the shortened race – which determines the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix and was first introduced last year – will now receive eight points instead of three.

Meanwhile, the FIA confirmed that no points will be awarded unless at least two laps have been completed without a safety car.

The new rule comes into force following last season’s two-lap, rain-hit Belgian Grand Prix which ran entirely behind the safety car.

The first pre-season test starts in Barcelona a week on Wednesday ahead of the opening round in Bahrain on March 20.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox