Brawn defends Masi following criticism of Saudi Arabian GP decisions

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 motorsport director Ross Brawn has defended the series’ race director Michael Masi over criticism of his handling of last weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said after the race F1 was missing the experience of Masi’s late predecessor Charlie Whiting.

However Brawn came to the defend of the FIA F1 race director following the grand prix. “I’d like to compliment the FIA and race director Michael Masi in handling well what was an extremely difficult race,” said Brawn. “I know some people feel some of the decisions were controversial but I don’t.”

Horner’s driver Max Verstappen was penalised twice during the race, once for leaving the track and gaining an advantage while defending his position, and again for braking abruptly and causing a collision with his championship rival Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen was also moved back two places on the grid at the race’s restart after leaving the track and forcing Hamilton wide when he rejoined. A discussion between Masi and Red Bull’s sporting director Jonathan Wheatley over the exchange, which was broadcast in television coverage of the race, attracted considerable attention. Brawn was satisfied with the handling of the decision.

“The situation you had with Max and Lewis at the restart, when Michael recommended that Max drop behind Esteban [Ocon] and Lewis, was handled well as the alternative was to report him to the stewards and that could have ended up with a time penalty.

Masi oversaw first race on new Jeddah circuit
“I think Michael dealt with it pragmatically. This type of discussion goes on several times during a race. If a driver gets by someone or defends unfairly, the race director will tell the team to correct the position.

“Some people seem to think Michael was doing a deal. He wasn’t doing a deal. It was simple: you accept the decision of the race director, with a known outcome, or it gets passed to the stewards to handle it.”

Masi faced numerous challenges during the first race weekend on the recently-completed Jeddah Corniche Circuit. These included late-starting sessions due to track repairs plus red flags in both the Formula 1 and Formula 2 races – the latter involving drivers who were taken to hospital.

“It was a tricky race and a tricky weekend,” Brawn concluded. “We’ve had a lot of challenges here, and I think everyone – the FIA, F1 and the teams – has pulled together to make this event work and it’s been a huge success.”

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2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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59 comments on “Brawn defends Masi following criticism of Saudi Arabian GP decisions”

  1. Its good and normal to defend your staff. So nothing new there.
    I do not think the souk approach was de cause for the critics.
    It was the communication errors with mercedes ( masi notified them but they failed to deliver the message timely to lewis probably?)
    It was the VSC multitude while the track stayed dirty and littered with carbon parts. Quite dangerous on a track like this.
    His warning for lewis indicate a warning for unsportsmanlike behavior. ( next step the black flag) when he pushed deliberately max of the track,
    The multiple penalty’s for the same error by max stacking and causing the stack as a result of bad communication.

    This race was not the finest hour for all participants in the mess.

    1. The inconsistency is Masi’s fault. People think Hamilton deserves a time penalty for pushing Max off even though all 4 of Hamilton’s tires are on track. That would mean harsher penalties for Max isn’t Brazil and Jeddah as Max’s car was completely off track multiple times.

      1. You know something is seriously wrong, when race control can spot a speck of dust 2km away, but fail to see a trailer running on track.
        I keep saying it and keep getting confounded by the stewards or race control. How can a driver who is already a car’s lenght ahead when he starts his turn and commits, now be responsible for a driver coming from behind with no intention of being able to keep the car within the track limits, be getting a warning this is an assualt on our senses.

  2. I wish some one would protect the 24 year old in a similar manner, for getting dragged down to the level of most around him. Seriously, this season was like watching the game Netherlands-Portugal way back. 22 cards (being either red or yellow) were given in a single match. I was just thinking the same as I am thinking now: sure the others provoke you all the time and are clearly ‘not such nice persons’ that obviously need this trickery to get ahead, but when you bite (which in my opinion started in Brasil) they get their way. This season is of no substantial relevance to Max’ racing career. It was always clear Mercedes would be the only team winning in the V6 Hybrid regulatory era. There is a bigger picture here that is way more important. One shouldn’t be tempted by foul play of others of which we already knew it would happen (ref Rosberg, Alonso). I don’t see Horner, Marko or Jos offer any sensibility nor perspective to Max. The Mercedes propaganda machine is working without an adversary.

    1. A very good description of what I as well think is the underlying outcome due to the Mercedes psychological warfare. It’s the big proven team against the Red Rebels who are not quite there yet, almost..

      I do sincerely hope the season does not end with both crashing due to one of the title contenders actions.

    2. No – it’s that pretty much everyone who isn’t a hardcore Max fan is getting fed up that Max is being allowed to get away with moves nobody else would be allowed to. We’ve had a member of FOM who is registered in this site confirm that the stewards are being discouraged from penalising him, and everyone else dislikes the bias in his favour.

      When so many from multiple different nationalities and supporters of multiple different drivers are saying the same thing, perhaps you might want to question yourself for once.

      1. +1 Well said

      2. We’ve had a member of FOM who is registered in this site confirm that the stewards are being discouraged from penalising him,

        The fantasy card is played in full here. When no arguments, fantasy always works for some.

        1. The fantasy is thinking Max is a clean driver.

        2. I think the main point is erikje, that it’s largely only Max fan’s who vehemently defend the indefensible. Still, it’s pleasing to see that Anon’s comments amused you. I stopped rolling on the floor while laughing when i was around six years old, so i could certainly do with a good laugh myself.

          1. Then you regularly enjoy the anon fantasys I

      3. This isn’t at all a response to anything I am saying

        1. How is it not a response? Max needs to maybe get banned from a race to sit and think about his driving. Senna had matured 7 years into his career at least a bit. Max is worse.

      4. I’d like to see a link to that comment from an FOM member. Absent that I don’t buy it.

      5. Can you expand on this so called FOM member? I have no trouble believing that but I would like to see evidence of what you are claiming.

        1. Lewis hamilton
          8th December 2021, 10:00

          I am here too.
          Everyone with some position in f1 will have a account here of course

    3. Stevan Vasiljević
      8th December 2021, 16:53

      How do you expect anyone to protect Max? He is amazingly quick, but his wheel-to-wheel skills often relied on the other guy to move aside to avoid crashing into each other.
      Well, that was all tolerated before, but I’m not sure why. Perhaps because it didn’t interfere with the championship? Now stakes are high, and Max also made every overtaking situation with Hamilton into a game of chicken.
      His reckless behavior has to stop, or he should be disqualified like Schumacher.
      I also wish that he wins the championship, but that Mercedes is too quick.

  3. Basicly negotiating return of position over the radio was funny, but a worrisome low.

    1. The negotiation was perfectly normal – it happens every time a driver gains a position against the rules.

      People seem to think that because this is the first time we have HEARD it, that it’s the first time it’s happened. But that’s so obviously untrue.

      Honestly after this weekend I feel like very few fans understand the relationship/difference between the race director and stewards that has always been there. I don’t think it’s a good setup myself, but it is certainly nothing new and this race followed all accepted norms.

      1. Nobody thinks this is the first time this happened.

        1. Oh I think a few really do……

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      8th December 2021, 15:48

      @jureo How was that a worrisome low? The only new thing here was that it was during a red flag situation.

      1. Generally race director orders return of position, what we had was negotiation.

  4. “Some people seem to think Michael was doing a deal. He wasn’t doing a deal. It was simple: you accept the decision of the race director, with a known outcome, or it gets passed to the stewards to handle it.”

    — Brawn

    Worries me that Ross can’t get the ethical nuances and implications of Masi action: Red Bull should be left with their own decision of whether or not would be worth to handle the place back to Lewis or take a risk of getting a penalty.

    And yes, it was a deal. Even Red Bull were surprised on the way Masi dealt with the situation.

    1. The negotiation was perfectly normal and happens all the time – you just haven’t heard it before

      1. The negotiation was perfectly normal

        Sorry, but now I’m worried about your own understanding of ethical standards…

        1. This has nothing to do with ethics….what I’m saying is, the same discussion has happened EVERY time a driver has gained a position illegally for the past…well, as long as I can remember and I’m sure long before that as well.

          People are mistaking the first time they hear something with the idea that it’s the first time it has happened.

          As I said in another comment, people do not seem to understand the relationship between the race director and the stewards

          1. Precisely. Every time a driver passes or defends illegally and it is not immediately rectified by the driver on track, race control will inform the team they must give the place back or it will be referred to the stewards. There is nothing new here except;
            1) we heard it, and
            2) it was during a red flag

            There is certainly nothing sinister or “unethical” in it. The alternative would have been for Masi to not give RBR the opportunity to swap back, refer it to the stewards, and get a(nother) slam dunk penalty for Max…

          2. the same discussion has happened EVERY time a driver has gained a position illegally for the past

            Sorry, Valandil, but, Horner said he was surprised by that kind of bargain offered to his team. Today, in F1 podcast, Coulthard said that he had never heard this kind of negotiation in his entire career.

            Where or when did you hear that discussion before?

          3. There is certainly nothing sinister or “unethical” in it. The alternative would have been for Masi to not give RBR the opportunity to swap back, refer it to the stewards, and get a(nother) slam dunk penalty for Max…


            I’m really shocked on how people can’t get the conflicts of Masi action and can’t connect that with basic ethics in any sports. I give up…

          4. What would have been normal, would have been a short, direct message to Red Bull’s pitwall saying ‘Car 33 must give back position to car 44’ and leave it up to them to figure it out or ignore it if they want to. The way it came off sounded like a real negotiation.

  5. Fine to defend Massi.
    Incomprehensible that race director bargaining with team?
    Surely a 10 second drive through penalty for gaining a place unfairly?
    Including pit delta 24 seconds + 10 second penalty = 34 seconds.
    With all of the other retrospective penalty applications this season.
    Where’s a correct & justified decision for this blatant infringement?

    1. Okay, and then we give Lewis a reprimand for his pushing a driver off track deliberate.
      So in his case 10 places grid penalty for Abu Dhabi.

      1. And multiple similar but harsher penalties for Max doing the same but also leaving the track himself.

        1. Already done for the same “leaving the track”..
          5 sec and 10 sec and three options to pass (before the stressed Lewis understand what to do)

      2. F1oSaurus (@)
        8th December 2021, 15:51

        No, that doesn’t warrant a penalty. No one suggests that Verstappen should have left more space at the restart after the second red flag. No one suggested Verstappen should have gotten a penalty for running Bottas off in the Brazilian GP.

        That’s how it works when the overtaking car is sufficiently alongside ahead to have the racing line. Or at least that was how it worked before the nonsense of hitting the apex was introduced to be able to give Hamilton a penalty for a racing incident in Silverstone.

    2. It’s perfectly normal for a driver to be given an opportunity to relinquish a position before being referred to the stewards so there is nothing incomprehensible about it at all.

      I don’t know why people are so obsessed with the idea that it was a ‘deal’… it was a threat that if they didn’t do what was normal, they would get reported

      1. @valandil Do you not see how “accept 3rd” and “being investigaged by stewards” are 2 options… That is a choice, and given a choice there can be a deal. They let RB pick the best option. Do you really not see why this is bad?

        1. They always have that choice. Race director tells them to give the place back, they either do it or are referred to the stewards. You can see that with Perez recently: he passed off track, choose not to give the place back so was penalised.

    3. You don’t even know what a drive through is, assuming you’re correct about pit lane, then a drive through is 24 sec, what you’re talking about (34) is called stop and go.

  6. Honestly, the one decision made by Massi, that is actually his main job, which is actually controversial and detrimental to the sport, and from which attention is being diversed was approving this circuit as a safe one. Most situations in the race happened for this track layout, the kind of racing it promotes and it’s consecuences. His job should have been, from the design stage, to guarantee that a venue with an adequate level of safety was being created and delivered; now we are actually stuck with this mess of a circuit, let’s hope that there is some way it can be fixed.

  7. Masi is indefensible, what happen this weekend is just tip of iceberg of blunders he has been making as Race director.

    1. We need to go back to 2019 when Masi took over as race director. In June came the Austria GP when Verstappen shoved Leclerc off track and won the race.
      This was the turning point. Clearly FIA/Liberty had to make a decision. Are we going to allow Verstappen to do this or not? Rules or show? They decided on ‘show’ and so started bending the rules under the mantas of ‘let them race’ and ‘hard racing.’ That’s one possibility, sure. However – and this is the big however – this rule, as far as Max and particularly Red Bull are concerned – only seems to apply to him. If Hamilton (especially or even exclusively) reciprocates, they protest. And FIA have been culpable here too, introducing inconsistency with their decisions since. The end result has been Max becoming the worst case of entitlement ever seen in Formula 1, period.

  8. I believe Masi’s recommendation of relegating VER to 3rd position is correct. Since the race was red flagged, he did not have the option to give the position back. Giving a penalty for gaining an advantage when the race was not in progress is not fair.

    The same thing happened in F2 with Daruwala and he was given a 5-second penalty. He was on the radio saying that I could have given the position back. The race ended behind a safety car and the 5-second penalty pushed him to the back of the grid.

    However, the way VER joined the track back was dangerous. That by itself should have been penalized independently. VER has proven time and again that he does not understand when he has to concede a corner. Whether it’s inside or outside, it doesn’t matter. If he’s inside, he’s going to run the other guy wide (like Brazil). If he’s outside, he’s going to turn into you (Silvertsone), or even if he’s outside and the other car has clearly a full car length ahead and making the corner, he will make it look like as if he’s being pushed out (Jeddah). The FIA has left it for too long for this tactic to go on. I do not believe this is going to end well at all.

    1. According to my understanding there is no rule that says “a driver must have the option to give the position back” before the stewards have to judge. Am I wrong?

  9. I hate to draw a football analogy to what is a very different sport, but could you imagine in a football game, if a referee gave an option to a player / manager, do you want me to award a free kick now? Or do you want me to refer it to the video referee (VAR) who may overturn it, or may award a penalty. There would be uproar! How can a rule book be so opaque as to let competitors decide their penalty?

    1. @swh1386 I guess because in football you need max 30sec to make any decision that may be required. F1 requires much more data to make the right decision. Still, Masi should not be consulting with teams and that was a consultation, no other way about it.

      1. It was neither a consultation or a deal or a negotiation: it was AN ORDER. Put VER back behind HAM.
        If you do not comply, then the stewards will award a penalty which will disadvantage you even more.

  10. I have been watching highlights of 2018 season. It’s appalling how many incidents VER was involved in (with penalties) and the corner cutting tactics that he used to retain advantage (without penalties). FIA inconsistencies over the years and VER being such a raw talent is wasted in a team with Horner and Helmut Marko. It’s a shame he doesn’t have a good mentor. Such attitude is often due to the high pressure put on him (probably by his father!) who’s trying to realize his dreams through his son.. and it’s messing him up.

    1. @macademianut He is a 23 year old dude…. sure it’s mostly parents that are to blame for his egomania but that doesn’t absolve Max of his responsibilities to be a decent human being.

      1. Of course, @ivan-vinitskyy. I am not trying to excuse him at all. He’s still responsible for his actions.

      2. F1oSaurus (@)
        8th December 2021, 15:54

        @ivan-vinitskyy How is this age related? You don’t see Russel, Leclerc or Norris drive that dirty. Or swear like that at their colleagues.

  11. It’s getting so frustrating listening to these people. Everybody is a politician playing their mind games. When has it become acceptable to abandon your personal views and adopt that of the function you’re performing? That goes for FIA, RB, Mercedes and even commentators and drivers.

  12. I think the bottom line from everything we’ve heard from Brawn is he will never criticise or brign down the reputation of F1. It makes sense, but it also makes his opinion far less relevant.

    “I think everyone – the FIA, F1 and the teams – has pulled together to make this event work and it’s been a huge success.”
    That’s the bottom line, and probably always will be. It’s almost, almost, making me miss Bernie. At least at times there was a pang of logic to his ranting.

  13. There are various issues. First I dislike the tone with which Masi and the teams (especially Red Bull) speak, it’s kind of creepy, basically. Add ‘offers’ and the rest into the mix and it just sounds kind of dodgy and partisan. Sorry, that’s just the impression given. But leaving that aside there were two other issues. First Masi was heard negotiating over a Verstappen misdemeanour after the Interlagos race where we had him and the FIA stewards claiming there was ‘nothing to see’. About as convincing as someone in the kitchen with a big plate on the table, empty save for the chocolate crumbs and a few cherries, saying ‘what cake?’ So obviously the assumption would be that Masi was attempting to minimize Max’s latest off-track escapade. I do get that this kind of argument might be (is) made by the race director, give back the place or it goes to the stewards. But the real issue unaddressed by Brawn is the fact Verstappen rejoined in an unsafe manner. And worsened the situation for his rival in so doing by forcing him to slow and thus let Ocon past. That was the bit that annoyed me when the bartering was going on (aside from Red Bull initially understanding that ‘P2’ for Max meant behind Ocon, ahead of Hamilton: I mean, what planet are they on?!)

  14. F1oSaurus (@)
    8th December 2021, 15:59

    I have to agree that Masi did a pretty good job.

    Maybe apart from that incident where Verstappen was supposed to be pretending that he gave the place back to Hamilton (while sitting in the middle of the track) could have been made more clear to Hamilton before, but apparently this was also caused by the Mercedes recipient of that message not taking the message when it was first sent to them.

    The stewarding was also amazingly in accordance with what the rules would suggest should be penalized. The only hope is that they actually keep applying the rules consistently like they did here.

    Plus maybe think about increasing the penalties when the rules are broken so obviously intentionally. A driver out braking themselves a little is not the same as: being overtaken, then coming back from a car length behind by simply not braking for the turn, flying far of line and then dangerously reentering the track. It’s just absurd that any driver even contemplates doing this. Let alone do it again.

    Why not give a black and white flag plus a 10s penalty the first time it’s so obviously intentionally dirty driving? Or introduce a black flag for causing 3 incidents in one race.

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