Verstappen feels Masi was ‘thrown under the bus’

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen puts his hand to his head. Spain, February 2022.

Max Verstappen believes the decision to remove Michael Masi from the F1 race director’s role was completely unfair.

The 2021 season will go down as one of the greatest ever seen in Formula 1, although on multiple occasions Race Control became a topic of debate for the wrong reasons with inconsistencies in  decision-making sparking frustration.

The season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix proved to be the height of the controversy, triggering an FIA review during the off-season.

It was concluded a greater support structure was needed around the race director but rather than retaining Masi, the Australian was replaced by a new duo of Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas who will rotate in the role, with Charlie Whiting’s former deputy Herbie Blash acting as a support.

But Verstappen is far from pleased with how the FIA have treated Masi.

He drew attention to the pressure placed on Masi in Abu Dhabi, where both Mercedes and Red Bull were lobbying the Australian via the radio.

Carlos Sainz behind Max Verstappen. Spain, February 2022.

Speaking to reporters at the group shakedown in Barcelona, Verstappen said: “Everyone always tries to do their best job and everyone can always use help.

“As drivers, we have the whole team behind us.

“For me, it’s really unfair what has happened to Michael because he has really been thrown under the bus.

“Of course, people talk a lot about what was decided in Abu Dhabi, but can you imagine a referee in whatever sport has a coach or equivalent screaming in his ear all the time, yellow card, red card, no foul… it’s impossible to make a decision.

“So I think in the first place that F1 already allowed that, that team members could talk to him while making decisions, is very wrong because it needed to be Michael making the decisions on his own without having people screaming in his ear.

“For those who sacked him to allow that in the first place is, for me, unacceptable and I found it really incredible.”

Verstappen explained that unlike when Whiting was race director, Masi did not have any help around him, which he felt Masi could have benefited from, while also referring to his own career to explain the benefit of experience.

He added Masi was a “very capable and good race director”, while confirming he had contacted Masi following the decision.

 

“I feel really sorry for Michael because I think he was a very capable and good race director,” said Verstappen.

“I have nothing against the new race directors because I think they are also very capable and very good race directors.

“But personally, for Michael, I felt very sad and I sent him a text as well. Not the right decision and especially if you had put someone next to him…after Charlie died, it’s very hard to take over from someone like him.

“He had so much experience from previous years and also Charlie had help around him and maybe Michael just needed a little bit more.

“Everyone needs experience. When I came into the sport, my first year, if I look at it now, I was a complete rookie. I’m so much further than what I was back then and I think it would have been the same for Michael.

“To immediately sack him, for me was not the right decision but I wish him all the best for whatever comes next. I hope it’s better than being an F1 race director.”

 

Alonso doesn’t think Masi did ‘anything wrong’ in Abu Dhabi

Fernando Alonso doesn't believe that Michael Masi did anything wrong in Abu Dhabi.