Michael Masi ‘open’ to having Abu Dhabi discussion with Lewis Hamilton

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton leads Max Verstappen into the last lap of the Abu Dhabi GP. Yas Marina December 2021.

Green flag is waved as Lewis Hamilton leads Max Verstappen into the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yas Marina December 2021.

Michael Masi says he’s “open” to speaking with Lewis Hamilton about the 2021 Abu Dhabi finale, insisting the Briton and others who feel he was robbed of the title are “entitled to their view”.

Two seasons ago Hamilton lost out on a record-breaking eighth World title when Masi, then FIA race director, made the controversial call to allow only the drivers between Hamilton and his title rival Max Verstappen to unlap themselves at the winner-takes-all season finale.

Restarting the race with one lap remaining, Verstappen put his fresher tyres to good use and stormed past Hamilton at Turn 5 to lead the race.

As the Dutchman raced to the win, and the World title, Hamilton said over the radio: “This has been manipulated.”

That’s a position many still maintain with Hamilton reiterating that claim a year later when he was asked if his 2008 title victory had any similarity to Abu Dhabi 2021.

“No, it was different, it was different because this one wasn’t manipulated by anybody,” Hamilton said. “Someone made a decision for that result to be the way it was basically.”

Masi says the Briton and others who feels that way are entitled to their own thoughts.

“They have their perspective and are entitled to their view,” he told the Daily Mail at the Australian GP as he returned to the paddock for the first time since 2021. “I respect any view, and it’s not for me to comment on what they do or don’t think.

“And if I am approached to have a discussion I am open to it, and always have been.”

Hamilton, however, doesn’t seem all that keen on engaging with Masi.

Asked on Thursday whether or not he wanted to have a conversation with the Aussie, he told the media including PlanetF1.com: “I don’t.

“I am just focused on my future. I am focused on trying to get back to winning. There is nothing to say.”

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Masi left his role as FIA race director weeks later, the Australian taking time to himself while revealing he also sought professional help to deal with the barrage of criticism he received.

“When I stopped at the FIA, I told my parents, ‘Those days are done for me’,” he said. “I had told them after the Abu Dhabi fallout not to bother reading or watching anything. It’s not healthy. The place can be a very toxic place. In many ways social media can be a great tool, but not so great in others.

“I have spent time looking after myself. It’s done me good. It’s what I needed. I spent a lot of time getting into physical shape but didn’t spend enough on the mental side for a long while.

“There were people I was speaking to privately, my then partner – she was an amazing support – and friends and family. As for professional help, I got that, but probably later than I should have done – the latter part of last year, but things had largely calmed down by then.”

He added: “I loved the job but you don’t realise the impact travelling so much has on you. When we last met in 2021, I literally lived on a plane. The joys of being able to cook a meal at home, being able to catch up with relatives are now open to me.

“My only living grandparent, Agusta, is 89 and is 10 minutes down the road. She can’t speak a word of English (both sides of his family ancestry being Italian) and she loves the fact I go to see her and have a coffee with her. Those little things. You don’t realise what they mean. Weddings, birthdays.”

Back in the paddock this weekend, the 44-year-old having taken up the role of chairman of the SuperCars’ Commission in Australia, he said: “I was a little nervous on Wednesday, when I first came in, but you have seen with your own eyes the kind reception.”

Masi signed a non-disclosure agreement between himself and the FIA that prevents him from discussing the finer points of Abu Dhabi ’21.