Wolff: Fixing F1 ‘not just about replacing the race director’

Jamie Woodhouse
Toto Wolff speaking with Michael Masi. Bahrain, March 2021.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff speaking with FIA race director Michael Masi in the paddock. Bahrain, March 2021.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that fixing Formula 1 is not as simple a process as just firing race director Michael Masi.

The 2021 season ended in controversy at the Abu Dhabi GP under a late Safety Car, with Mercedes feeling that an alleged misuse of the sporting regulations cost their driver Lewis Hamilton the World Championship.

Masi restarted the race for one final lap, but only cleared the lapped runners between Max Verstappen in P2 and the leader Hamilton, not all of them.

On fresher tyres Verstappen would pass Hamilton on the last lap, charging on to the line to crown himself World Champion.

Even before that incident, the stewards had been criticised for perceieved inconsistencies in what they felt amounted to acceptable wheel-to-wheel racing.

The FIA is putting together a report on the events of Abu Dhabi, but Wolff does not feel that the buck stops with the race director.

Lewis Hamilton post race. Abu Dhabi December 2021
# 44 Lewis Hamilton (GBR, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team), F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit. Abu Dhabi December 2021

“It’s a bigger problem, my values ​​are simply not compatible with the decisions that were made,” said Wolff, as quoted by the Spanish branch of Motorsport.com.

“It is not just about replacing the race director. The whole decision-making system must be improved.

“It’s one thing to drive hard and have different points of view between drivers and teams, that’s normal. But inconsistent decisions inevitably lead to controversy, much of it totally unnecessary.”

Wolff added that “inconsistencies in the implementation of the rules on track” were present at different stages of the season, not only in Abu Dhabi, and that while for Mercedes “sometimes it hurt us and sometimes we were luckier”, in Abu Dhabi those issues in decision making were “catastrophic” for his team.

“But this last decision had the biggest impact, and from a sports perspective, it was catastrophic because it decided the World Championship,” Wolff continued.

It is Wolff’s belief that F1’s sporting regulations should not be played with to “spice up the action”, but denied the suggestion that Masi may have been pressured into stopping the title being decided behind the Safety Car.

“I would never say something like that, because in the end we provide entertainment, but that entertainment has to follow the sport and not the other way around,” said Wolff.

“Stefano [Domenicali, F1 CEO] is a real racing man and would not be interested in intervening in the races for the entertainment factor.

“I can’t judge the pressure the race director is under at the time, but the rules are the rules.”

Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto recently expressed sympathy for Masi, feeling that at that point in Abu Dhabi, his job was the hardest on the planet.

But if other teams want to talk about where Formula 1 goes from here, then Ferrari are more than happy to engage.

The matter was discussed at a pre-Christmas meeting of the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council.

And Wolff does believe that the teams need to put their heads together and come up with a plan to strengthen Formula 1’s decision making.


“I am sure that all of us, the teams, the drivers, the FIA and F1 itself, can improve the way decisions are made so that the category becomes stronger,” he said.

“While these situations are very painful, they are also opportunities to change and improve.”


PlanetF1 Verdict


Will F1 ever move on from Abu Dhabi?

Is the discussion over the 2021 controversy likely to die down any time soon?