Just as Ferrari were unveiling their F1-75, FIA president Mohammed bin Sulayem announced Michael Masi had lost his job as F1’s race director.
Instead, World Endurance Championship race director Eduardo Freitas and former DTM race director Niels Wittich will rotate the role this season.
The duo will be assisted by Herbie Blash, who was the former deputy to Charlie Whiting.
Masi’s position as F1 race director become untenable when, at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, he made the call that cost Lewis Hamilton the World title.
In an unprecedented move, the Australian allowed only five of the eight lapped cars – the five between race leader Hamilton and second-placed Max Verstappen – to unlap themselves.
That left Hamilton a sitting duck on the restart, the Briton easily overtaken by Verstappen who won the race and the World title. Hamilton said at the time the result had been “manipulated”.
Such was the backlash that the FIA launched an investigation into the decision-making in Abu Dhabi, informing the teams of their findings at the F1 Commission meeting on Monday.
Promising an “action plan” at the time, that plan has now been revealed by new FIA president Bin Sulayem, and it includes Masi’s departure.
“I would like to inform you a new race management team will be put in place, starting in Barcelona for the test session,” Bin Sulayem said in a video released by the FIA.
“Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will act alternatively as Race Director, assisted by Herbie Blash as permanent senior advisor.
“Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three years as Formula 1 race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA.”
— Mohammed Ben Sulayem (@Ben_Sulayem) February 17, 2022
The race director will also have extra assistance in a Video Assistance Referee (VAR) system similar to football’s.
“To assist the race director in the decision-making process, a Virtual Race Control Room will be created,” he added.
“Alike the Video Assistance Referee (VAR) in football, it will be positioned in one of the FIA Offices as a back-up outside the circuit.
“In real-time connection with the FIA F1 race director, it will help to apply the sporting regulations using the most modern technological tools.”
The other contentious issue from Abu Dhabi was Red Bull and Mercedes’ communication with Masi in the latter part of the race.
That has now been banned.
“Direct radio communications during the race, currently broadcast live by all TVs, will be removed in order to protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully,” said the president.
“It will still be possible to ask questions to the race director, according to a well-defined and non-intrusive process.”
One thing that has yet to be decided but is on the table for discussion is “unlapping procedures behind the Safety Car” which Bin Sulayem says will be “re-assessed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the next F1 Commission prior to the start of the season”.
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The FIA have revealed that Michael Masi will no longer be race director.