Max Verstappen sent Michael Masi a message after the drama of Abu Dhabi had unfolded, and the World Champion argued his removal of race director was an “unfair” one, adding that he needed more support.
Masi’s decision to allow racing to restart after a late Safety Car period in last season’s finale provided a controversial conclusion to the year and, following an internal FIA investigation, a new structure has been put in place in Race Control and the under-fire race director was relieved of his role as a result.
Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich will now direct races on a rotating basis, in the hope of avoiding burnout across a record 23-round calendar in 2022.
The Red Bull driver spoke previously about how he felt Masi was “thrown under the bus” in the aftermath of the race, and he said they have since exchanged messages.
“What happened to Michael is very unfair,” Verstappen told the Daily Mail. “The FIA were pressurised into making a decision. I wrote a message to him about it.
“I said we didn’t always agree on everything but that’s racing. We always wanted to make the sport better as a whole.
“Nobody is perfect, but what was always brought up was that we needed to race. We needed that mindset and he had that.”
Masi became race director after a spell as deputy for Charlie Whiting, but was launched into the main role after the former race director’s untimely death in Australia in 2019.
But having taken on one the responsibility of the most important jobs in Formula 1 largely by himself, the Red Bull driver said he felt Masi needed to have more people around him to make decisions more clearly.
As a result of his removal from his position, the new World Champion said he was not the only person to send the Australian his best.
“For Michael to jump in after Charlie [Whiting] was a difficult task,” Verstappen said.
“Everyone needs help. I have the whole team around me. Maybe Michael needed more people around him but he never got the opportunity. They really put him in the ground.
“He appreciated my message. He got a few more. It was very fresh for him. I have had my moments with the stewards but at the end of the day you have to have respect for each other.
“You don’t always have to agree. The aim is to make the racing better, more exciting but also fair.”
Verstappen will start the defence of his title in Bahrain on Sunday 20 March, with three days of testing to come at the same circuit from Thursday 10 March.
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