F1 race director Masi ‘did a very good job and I hope he sticks around’ – Vettel

2022 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel hopes FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi will continue in his role in 2022 despite coming under heavy criticism over his handling of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the end of last year.

Masi took over as F1 race director after the sudden death of long-time position holder Charlie Whiting before the start of the 2019 season. The events of last year’s championship-deciding race thrust Masi into the spotlight following his decision to restart the race with one lap remaining after selectively allowing only the five lapped cars between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to rejoin the lead lap.

While the handling of the race is being examined by the FIA, Vettel expressed his hopes that Masi will stay on as race director for the upcoming season.

“With Michael, I think it’s just been a pity,” he said at the launch of Aston Martin’s new F1 car today. “There’s two sorts of interests clashing – one is the sport and the other one is the show. For me, obviously, I don’t care so much about the show, because you’re involved and look at it as a sport and from a competitive point of view.

“It’s not the easiest sometimes to be in the shoes of the referee or Michael’s shoes, but I think he’s done a great job, especially after filling in after Charlie passed away so suddenly. He really has been very, very focussed and determined to do a good job.

Aston Martin AMR22, 2022
Pictures: Aston Martin AMR22 launch
“So I don’t know either what’s his future, but I hope he sticks around because I think overall he did a very, very good job. I think there’s a lot of controversy for the last race, but there shouldn’t be. I think if you look at the bigger picture, he’s done really well.”

However Vettel believes that the sport must emphasise fair competition and needs to avoid the temptation to create more exciting track action through how it choose to enforce its rules.

“I think the main thing is that we focus on the sport and not so much on the show,” he explained. “I think last year, obviously, it was always going to be a great final or a great last race because there was one winner and one loser. Ideally, you have two winners, but that’s not how any sport is designed, so it wasn’t going to work.

“Obviously I was in the race and wondering why we were not released earlier in order to get the race started again, but I guess there’s a protocol and rules. I think the main thing is that, going forwards, there’s clarity what’s happening in these other situations and no questions asked anymore.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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31 comments on “F1 race director Masi ‘did a very good job and I hope he sticks around’ – Vettel”

  1. The thing with Michael is, had it been only what happened at Abu Dhabi, probably it could have some mending. But the truth is it was the blasting cherry on top of a disastrous season for such a stable-needed position.

    He did not do an overall good job, and saying things like that goes against the sport. Good thing this is a show not a sport.

    1. I absolutely agree that he didn’t do a great job. But the incident in Abu Dhabi doesn’t even rank in my top 5 of egregious incidents. The only real injustice I saw in Abu Dhabi was for drivers who weren’t allowed to unlap themselves and watch their competition disappear in the distance. There was really no reason to end the race under safety car. I think they should have let all driver unlap themselves without waiting for them to catch the pack. Max would have still taken the WDC in turn 5, but there would be no injustice whatsoever.

      1. There was really no reason to end the race under safety car.

        That’s definitely true.

        I think they should have let all driver unlap themselves without waiting for them to catch the pack.

        I don’t think it was possible for all cars to get through before the end of the lap, and they didn’t allow the few they did let through to catch the pack anyway. However, it was possible to just restart the race without letting any lapped cars through, which would have been allowed within the written procedures and rules without invoking the ridiculous, dangerous and unsporting “I can do whatever the heck I want, whenever I want, with the safety car no matter what any other rules say” interpretation of 15.3.

        1. it was possible to just restart the race without letting any lapped cars through

          This was clearly Masi’s plan at the outset. It was legal and fair, and the sporting outcome of a sporting competition. Why he changed it, four minutes later, is a tale that must never be told. In fact the question must not be asked, by anyone who wants to keep their F1 media pass.

          When you think about it. Michael Masi was probably the most ethical person in F1 that night.

  2. I wonder what Vettel will do after he retires. He’s seemed to be increasingly involved in the GDPA and political side (to an extent) in recent years, so I wonder if he’ll end up taking a role either at the GDPA (perhaps as a former driver chair like Alex Wurz currently is I believe), or at the FIA, either as a driver steward or even more on the management side, even if it’s as an advisory role. It depends on whether he wants to completely give up F1 when he retires, much like it looks like Kimi has done/will do, or whether he wants to remain involved in one way or another. He has seemed like a different person since he left Ferrari I must admit.

    1. Alonso vs Vettel on next decade FIA presidency battle

  3. Not really in the big picture, albeit the blame also lies on stewarding as RD is unresponsible for steward decisions.

  4. The race was always going to finish without the safety car. It’s just that with his initial decision, there’d have been 5 lapped cars between Max and Lewis.

    1. Initial decision was wrong, should’ve let them unlap at the time the initial decision was taken.

      1. But perhaps Masi has a sense of justice, had you thought of that?

      2. should’ve let them unlap at the time the initial decision was taken

        While marshals were still on the track recovering the car?

        1. Max fans deliberately ignore such facts.

          1. Untill now, this was a decent discussion. People have different opinions, accept that!

          2. Those who argue that Masi should have let lapped cars unlap earlier simply dont accept the fact, that this was not possible. Dont know what this got to do with accepting different opinions.

          3. TBH, thinking back there was an instance (in 2020, I think) where the backmarkers were allowed to unlap themselves before the marshals were clear, so there is precedent.

            However, there were a couple of very near misses in that case, and IIRC there was uproar about it. As far as I am aware, ever since then the policy has been to wait until the marshals are clear before allowing backmarkers through.

            That said, this is all from memory, and I may be wrong.

  5. When F1 becomes Mario kart.

  6. With every year that passes I find myself appreciating Vettel even more. Some people grow. Some people don’t. Good stuff Vettel speaking your mind. Same as Ricciardo; moving forward and setting a good example for the youth.

  7. Still on this topic? Wow

    1. I wouldn’t expect it to stop any time soon. It’s a massively controversial decision which had a material effect on the title-deciding final race of the season, and we are still waiting to hear what the FIA investigation into it concludes. It will be spoken of for years to come.

      1. In the UK maybe. Rest of the world just in some specialised media I think. There is a lot going on in the world that deserves attention.

        1. Sky already milking it to the fullest with the “new” voice broadcasts everybody already heard last year.
          If there is nothing to publish just invent story’s.
          Repeat the same narrative helps in creating a story for your fans.

          1. You mean the new finding that RB instructed Masi exactly what to do, and already informed Max what will happen, even before the race directors official message?

            This was not broadcasted last year afaik, but feel free to share some older link of the respective video or transcript of those radio messages. ;-)

            Seems like some people wanted to put it under the carpet, cause it shines an even worse light on what happened. The RD exactly executing instructions he receives from RB – the smell of something fishy obviously cannot be denied.

          2. I do remember hearing at least some of those radio messages, and wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I’d heard all of them. However, I am certain I never heard them all together, with timings and context. That makes a difference.

          3. @drmouse Then you probably didnt see this one: https://twitter.com/RobLMyers/status/1491302430658932737 (hope its ok to link a twitter video here). Or I must have missed this radio messages last year, but I think they were not available to public back then.

            Very interesting the way RB instructed Masi what to do, and that they knew about only specific lapped cars will unlap, before race control released this unprecendented instruction.

            The timeline between the cuts can be derived from track position.

          4. They were all available on the F1 site.
            But hey, now it sounds much better.
            We created a context.. Wow.

          5. The focus on this last race is a deliberate attempt to ignore the season preceding it. Harm may have been done during the last race but I feel more harm was done in the races before that one. Harm leading up to a situation where Lewis was able to fight (during that last race) for the championship in the first place. That should have never happened. The season should have been wrapped up by Mexico. This whole season was a slap in the face of all teams bar Mercedes. Their political power has to end. Wings, pitstops, tyre chances in season, light penalties when bumping a competitor of, favorable red flags. We’ve seen it all and not forgotten it. That last race was a tainted hollow fight for the championship.

          6. The focus on this last race is a deliberate attempt to ignore the season preceding it.

            I doubt there is anything deliberate, and I disagree strongly that only Mercedes benefitted.

            That said, I agree with you that the entire season was a joke in terms of officiating. I’ll add that rules around repairing parts need clarifying, as do the rules of engagement on track (and these need publicising, not keeping as an internal document for competitors only). The stewards need to be far more consistent in their decision making, too, and ideally an external review board needs setting up, not to change results but to feed back to the stewards and other officials to improve consistency (as has been seen in other sports). I know that consistency of stewards’ decisions and penalties given has been an issue in F1 for years, but this season marked a step change. Most of the time, when an incident occurs, a knowledgeable, neutral spectator should be able to predict the outcome with reasonable accuracy, and I think that’s just about been true (barely, if you squint) before this season, but the stewards last year just seemed to roll a die to determine a large number of decisions.

        2. Rest of the world just in some specialised media I think.

          As long as it is being discussed heavily in F1 circles, it’s still a big deal. As long as there is still public disagreement among those in F1 circles, it is still controversial.

          I would not expect discussions around composition vs inheritance to extend outside software development circles, but that doesn’t make them any less important for those involved in them. My mum wouldn’t care one way or the other, nor would she care about Masi’s decision, but that doesn’t take away the massive debate going on at the moment around the world among F1 fans and media about this subject.

          1. I highly doubt it. It seems a small group of Lewis fans only.

          2. It seems a small group of Lewis fans only.

            Several drivers and TPs have now come out and said they don’t think it was handled fairly, along with several who say it was, so there is public disagreement on the grid. Discussions with F1 fans from around the world, most of whom are not Hamilton fans reveals a wide range of opinions. I have even spoken to Max fans who have said Masi’s decision was wrong.

            While it is possible that those I have spoken to are not representative, I think this is strong evidence that it is not just “a small group of Lewis fans”, but a much wider community of F1 fans.

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