‘Nothing fundamentally wrong with what Masi did’
There was “nothing fundamentally wrong” with Michael Masi’s title-deciding decision in Abu Dhabi even if “the result was patently unfair”.
That is the opinion of experienced F1 journalist Joe Saward.
Masi’s decision at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the one that set the stage for a last-lap shootout, has been scrutinised from all quarters over the past two months. However, it is the FIA’s scrutineering of it that will ultimately decide the way forward.
The FIA spoke with teams about their findings in Monday’s F1 Commission meeting but very few details of that have been revealed.
For every report that says Masi is about to get the boot, axed from his job as the FIA race director, another says he will hold on to the position but have a support team behind him.
That is how Saward sees this playing out.
“It is not thought likely the federation will axe race director Michael Masi as this would obviously be a sign of the FIA kowtowing to pressures from external forces,” he wrote in his latest blog.
“Particularly as the FIA Stewards in Abu Dhabi rejected the Mercedes-Benz appeal and by doing so supported Masi’s actions, whether it was popular or not.
“They are the official referees of the sport and thus the FIA want them to be respected. To remove Masi would be unwise and would create unhelpful precedents for the sport.”
Instead, Saward believes Formula 1 will likely take steps to ensure future Safety Car periods do not disadvantage one driver while giving another a clear advantage.
That is what happened in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton had been leading by 10 seconds when the Safety Car came out, bunching up the field.
And as Red Bull had ‘pitted’ Verstappen behind the Safety Car whereas Mercedes, fearing Hamilton would lose P1 to the Dutchman, left their driver out, Verstappen with his fresher tyres easily attacked Hamilton on his old rubber.
Saward continued: “It is far more likely the analysis will focus on the way the Safety Car is used, as this was the fundamental reason Lewis Hamilton lost the World Championship.
“The Safety Car rules have never been fair, but with new technology there is an opportunity to find new ways to bring races under caution without the leader losing the advantage that has been built up.
“There may also be a change to the pit-lane rules so a driver does not suffer based on where the car is when the race goes under yellow.”
As for the race stewards backing Masi’s call, as was evident when they rejected Mercedes’ two appeals in the immediate aftermath of the race, Saward says “there was nothing fundamentally wrong with what the race director did”.
It did, however, result in a “patently unfair” result as “Hamilton did not deserve to lose the race and thus the title”.
'Nothing fundamentally wrong with what Masi did'
F1 journalist Joe Saward believes that Michael Masi didn't do anything fundamentally wrong.