Wolff denies appeal decision hinged on Masi exit

Jon Wilde
Michael Masi and Toto Wolff. Bahrain March 2021

Michael Masi and Toto Wolff in discussion ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Bahrain March 2021

Toto Wolff has denied Mercedes’ decision to abandon their Abu Dhabi appeal had any connection with Michael Masi leaving his job.

Mercedes were aghast at the way in which Masi, as race director, presided over the closing stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as a season-long Drivers’ title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen reached its crescendo.

Masi’s judgements regarding a Safety Car period left Verstappen, running second in the race with fresh tyres, with a clear shot at Hamilton on old rubber for one final lap under green flags.

“Mikey, this is so not right,” yelled Wolff over the team radio as the Red Bull driver lined up his move on Hamilton, got past for the victory and went on to claim his first World Championship and deny his rival a record-breaking eighth.

Two protests immediately afterwards by Mercedes failed. They then stated their intention to launch an appeal process, but a few days later that was dropped after the FIA announced a full investigation into what had happened at Yas Marina would take place.

Lewis Hamilton leads starting the final lap of the Abu Dhabi GP. Yas Marina December 2021.
Lewis Hamilton leads Max Verstappen starting the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yas Marina December 2021.

The outcome of that was announced on Thursday, with the biggest change being that Masi is to be replaced as race director.

A report in mid-January from the BBC claimed Mercedes “dropped their appeal after agreeing a quid pro quo deal with the FIA”, in exchange for Masi being removed from his position. Mercedes quickly refuted that had been the case.

Wolff, at the launch of his team’s W13 car for the 2022 season, expanded on that denial.

“Dropping the appeal being linked to anyone leaving the FIA is not true,” said Wolff.

“The restructuring at the FIA regarding how decisions are being made was necessary. Last year was a great season, but it created a lot of polarisation with decisions that were not always easy to understand.”


Asked to address suggestions the race in Abu Dhabi had been fixed, Wolff replied: “No. It was just circumstances and decisions that were unprecedented and how they came about certainly for us was a shock.

“Three laps to the end we got a message that the cars were not allowed to unlap, and four minutes later suddenly there are two messages that came out of nowhere. The championship was gone within half a minute of a decision-making process and that is unprecedented.

“We have to move on and to put it aside. We won’t forget it because that is simply not possible, but we need to look to 2022 and launching the car is the moment, along with the steps that have been taken by the FIA, to embark on the season with encouragement.”


FIA reveal their structural changes

The FIA have revealed Michael Masi will no longer be race director.