Michael Masi, Singapore, 2019

Masi deserves chance to stay as F1 race director – Ricciardo

2022 F1 season

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Daniel Ricciardo believes Michael Masi should have the opportunity to remain in his position as FIA Formula 1 race director following the fall-out over the controversial end to last season.

Masi has been F1 race director for the past three seasons following the sudden death of Charlie Whiting, who held the position for multiple decades. He has come under intense criticism following his handling of the late Safety Car restart in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in which only five lapped cars between Lewis Hamilton and championship rival Max Verstappen were permitted to un-lap themselves under the Safety Car.

Speaking ahead of the launch of McLaren’s MCL36 at the team’s headquarters in Woking, Ricciardo expressed his hope that Masi is able to remain as race director should he want to continue in the role.

“I don’t like speaking on behalf of people, but ultimately if Michael wants to stay, then he should stay,” said Ricciardo. “I don’t think one event should be the picture of everything, if you know what I mean.

The disputed conclusion to last season was a regular topic of conversation for Ricciardo as he spent the winter in his native Australia. He said he was constantly asked for his views about the title-deciding restart, in which he had followed behind the battling rivals as the first lapped runner.

“I went home obviously for Christmas and that and inevitably friends, family were like ‘woah, that last race – what did you think?’ So it was certainly mixed.

“For sure I would say a little bit more were like ‘I’m not sure how I felt about that’, but then others were like, ‘well, that was pretty entertaining – last lap, title gets decided.’

“I had the front row seat – for some reason, they left me right behind them. So I was like ‘wow, is this really happening? This is nuts’.

“I watched it on TV in 2008, with Massa and Lewis and I was like ‘that’ll never happen again’. Obviously it did.”

The conclusion to the season provoked widespread criticism. The FIA is investigating whether changes need to be made in race control following the controversy. However Ricciardo is hopeful the row will not prove a turn-off for fans.

“I think it was a moment in time, for sure, and not everyone is going to appreciate that moment in time. But I think lovers of the sport are still going to be lovers of the sport and probably if anything, curious to see what happens in 2022.”

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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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28 comments on “Masi deserves chance to stay as F1 race director – Ricciardo”

  1. How many chances does the guy need?

    No. Just no.

    1. Masi is the fall guy. The story is being kept on the boil so that it can be written into history as his mistake, his weakness, being influenced by Red Bull. But his initial decision was the right one: legal, fair, and exciting with a green flag finish. It’s quite unlikely he changed it to please Jonathan Wheatley.

      It’s much more likely he got a call, to change it, from on high. F1 makes a lot more money with Max as the new champion.

      1. The right one was to finish racing. And he delivered it. Entire world except UK undisputed it.

        1. Right thing is to follow the rules. I, like many others, am not from UK, and will never see the outcome as legit result. This was manipulating the championship and putting a farcical show above the sports.

          1. RC director can ignore those rules….. if he needs it that is also in the rulebook. Ofcourse it’s a stupid rule as you can’t have an constant ruleruling with that.

    2. @bradders not to mention that there really does need to be a very hard look at the rather worrying safety issues that have cropped up under Masi’s direction.

      When Masi admitted to mistakes such as rushing his decision to restart qualifying in the Turkish GP a few years ago by gambling the track would be cleared in time, breaking the normal protocol to ensure the track was clear before restarting the session, he should, frankly, have been demoted quite some time ago.

      He’s been routinely criticised here for a disinterest in one of the fundamental reasons that there is a race director in the first place – to ensure that the races are being held in the safest manner possible – and for having a public attitude of utterly rejecting any feedback, even when that feedback is well intentioned and made in a respectful manner. That is an extremely dangerous combination, because it feels like it’s a matter of time before something does go wrong because of rash decision making in the name of “entertainment” and because he doesn’t want to listen to feedback on how things could, and should, be improved.

  2. He sounds like he’s being “diplomatic” more then anything.

    1. I completely agree, this is Daniel being very careful about what he says, trying to remain neutral and see both sides.

    2. Yup, he said exactly what he thought about the restart when he was sitting in the car. Of course he didn’t say what he thought the ramifications should be.
      Having said that, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t know Masi personally and he seems, like a lot of the drivers, generally comfortable with the working relationship with the drivers – good two-way comms, (briefings/race notes etc) & some high measure of trust. Their physical wellbeing is in the hands of the race director to a degree unparalleled in most people’s lives, if they were worried about that aspect not many of them would be diplomatic.

  3. Deserving or undeserving is debatable, but either way, whether he stays or gets replaced, some things have to change & overall consistency most certainly has to improve.

  4. Sorry Dan….if you were leading a race, and the steward decided the winner was not going to be yourself…..you obviously would want him to continue as steward for future races……

    1. @jop452
      Masi isn’t a steward so I imagine Danny Ric would have no issue with him continuing in his role of race director in the instance you’ve just described

      1. Sorry David….should have said race director…(in the type of motor racing I am involved in…he would have been classed as a steward..which is how I think of him)

        1. @jop452 What series is that? There’s no motor racing that I’m aware of where they combine stewards and race directors as a single role, except maybe some American series, but even then I doubt it. Lower series such as entry-level karting which only has marshalls and some form of race director/manager/organizer may split the roles of stewards, but I doubt you’d be referring to that.

          Regardless, and a big controversial take here, the decision didn’t really impact Hamilton as much as people think it did. Everyone was told and agreed to do anything possible to finish as a race. The argument that the safety car should’ve stayed out is disingenuous since it would’ve been against what was told to everyone earlier and Max couldn’t fight back, this would’ve been more controversial. Strategy lost it for Lewis, Toto was probably betting on a red flag and free pitstop, as soon as that wasn’t the case, all he could do was complain and pressure F1 into finishing under safety car (concurrently and subsequently), hence the politics now and Toto making it look like Hamilton was robbed because of that call. It was still a terrible call though, but the only people truly treated unfairly were everyone else that restarted out of order and couldn’t fight on the last lap. A better call would be predictable, so teams could factor it into their strategy, and have drivers restart in the right order.

  5. It wasn’t just one event. Masi has been distracted, indecisive, and inconsistent since he took over in 2019. I get that he wasn’t ready for the job in 2019– but after two full seasons, he really ought to know what he’s doing, and be able to manage the race clearly, but even in 2021, he still lacked focus.

    He couldn’t answer the driver’s questions about whether they were allowed to push people off track like Verstappen did in Brazil. He can’t offer a consistent interpretation of the rules.

    Personally, I still want to know who turned the yellow flags off in Qatar during qualifying? I saw the lights come on twice, and both times, instantly went off again. No one mentioned a technical fault, so someone cleared them, and left one lone marshal who did the right thing to take Horner’s rage on international TV. Who?

    And let’s not forget Spa– a bad situation, made worse by a questionable call.

    No, Abu Dhabi was not the only problem situation Masi has had. He’s trying to micromanage at least three jobs, and Race Director is a job that requires 100% attention from *someone*. Whiting had Herbie Blash (and then Masi) as a deputy, but if Masi has a deputy, it’s obvious he’s not giving that person enough authority– At least once, Masi claimed he was slow to respond to an on-track issue because he was personally supervising track repair– you can’t split that job like that.

  6. Masi can stay. There is no real replacement and he as a person is not the problem.
    Abu D was only one of the occasions where fia rules did not work or were not used correctly.

    1. If they replace Masi but don’t anything about increasing the staff and a spokesman for the teambosses during races you will get nothing but the same outcome if this happens again.

      1. If they replace Masi but don’t tighten the regulations to ensure the race director cannot just ignore large swathes of the regulations whenever he feels like it, you will get nothing but the same outcome if this happens again.

  7. I will leave it up to the FIA to decide what needs to change beit rules or people. I will say that change must happen as 2021 was a bit of a goat rodeo and F1 won’t grow if you start repeating 2021. Abu D was the cherry on top of a messy year.

  8. It’s the politically right thing to say. But if these drivers are on the other side of a bad officiating, these same drivers would be crying in their mommies.

    Just let him go, he done so much damage to the sport’s credibility and integrity.

  9. Italian-Australian who under-performed defends an Italian-Australian who under-performed.

    1. @XV Masi also has Italian descent? I was unaware until I got to your post.

      1. @jerejj

        Yes. I thought he was Italian when I first heard his name, because his name is obviously Italian.

        1. @aapje Masi, yes, albeit perhaps not as clearly an Italian name as Ricciardo & or Piastri.

  10. Solidarity between Aussies of Italian descent.

  11. Botched and questionable safety cars were never a cause for months long complaints or demands for the race director to resign before; whether that was in Valencia 2010 (one of the most egregious), China in 2018 or plenty of other examples.

    Of course Masi can stay. There is always room for improvement in such roles, but the main problem in F1 officiating is with the stewards, not the race director.

    1. Botched and questionable safety cars were never a cause for months long complaints

      “Botched and questionable” safety cars have never, as far as I am aware, had such a significant and visible effect on the outcome of a championship before.

      Note that I am not calling for Masi’s head, all I want is the rules fixing, but it should be obvious to everyone that this is significantly different.

  12. Well, as a driver you can’t say he has to leave because if he stays for another 5 years, you’d be racing under his direction and he can always pull a 2021on you:).

    Of course, all drivers will say that Masi has to stay. It’s like driving for McLaren and saying that you think Norris needs to go.

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