Horner concedes Masi made a mistake in Abu Dhabi

Sam Cooper
Zak Brown, Christian Horner and Michael Masi. Abu Dhabi, December 2020.

Christian Horner has admitted race director Michael Masi made a mistake during the final race of the 2021 season.

In the most controversial moment of last season, Masi allowed a portion of lapped cars to un-lap themselves which set up a last-lap shootout between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Verstappen, on fresh tyres, overtook the Mercedes driver to go on and win his maiden World Championship.

In the immediate aftermath, Mercedes threatened legal action but while that did not come to anything, Masi was removed as race director before the 2022 season and replaced by Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich.

The decision of Masi directly benefitted Horner and Red Bull but the team boss has now admitted it was a mistake from the former race director.

“He made one mistake in that he didn’t allow all lapped cars to un-lap themselves,” Horner told the Cambridge Union. “I think there was three cars that were kept at the back of the field and unable to [un-]lap themselves. That was the only mistake that he made.”

The 48-year-old went on to say the way Masi had been treated was “tremendously harsh” and highlighted online abuse Masi received.

 

“So I thought it was tremendously harsh for him to be hung out to dry, particularly in public, and then the trolling that he got and the abuse that he got online without really support the federation behind him.

“There was a lot of decisions he made last year that we felt went against us, whether it was yellow flags in qualifying in Qatar or the Silverstone incident with Lewis. But I did feel sorry for him that there should have been more support after that championship because he was in an incredibly difficult position.”

Horner also recounted how he felt during the closing stages of the race and said he remembers telling the Sky Sports commentary team that they needed “something from the racing gods.”

“For most of the race, I was thinking Mercedes had the upper hand,” he said. “We’d qualified on pole but Lewis was pulling it away, he had the race under control.

“I was thinking ‘We’ve gone through all this year, we’ve been so close, but to lose both Championships, how am I going to pick Max up? What am I going to say to the team? How am going to lift their spirits?’

“I think I was actually connected to the Sky commentators, which is always an interesting experience, and they asked me how it was looking.

“I said ‘Well, I think we’re gonna need something from the racing gods to turn this around’ and then Nicholas Latifi turned up so I didn’t realise I had a direct line.”