FIA seeking third race director for F1, “might use” Masi in a role

2022 F1 season

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Former FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi could return to the sport in future, the president of the governing body has confirmed.

Masi was replaced as F1 race director after he was found to have made an “error” in his handling of the championship-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas took over from Masi in the role.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem revealed he spoke to Masi last week and is also considering whether to add a third person to F1’s roster of race directors.

“I spoke to him two days ago,” Ben Sulayem told the Daily Mail, adding he has “no personal issue” with him.

Masi was widely criticised over his decision to restart the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with one lap remaining. The FIA found he failed to follow the rules by bringing in the Safety Car one lap too early and not allowing all lapped cars to regain the lead lap.

This had a decisive effect on the outcome of the championship, as Max Verstappen was able to use the extra lap of racing to pass Lewis Hamilton and win the race and championship.

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Nonetheless Ben Sulayem is open to finding a role for Masi. “Michael is there and we might use him,” he said. “I didn’t say we were getting rid of him. I said we might use him. He may be in a good place to use. We are open to everything.

“Our race structure was wrong organisationally. And though we have brought in two new race directors, I wouldn’t say we have got it all right yet. We need to clean the stables.”

Ben Sulayem added he “would like to see a minimum of three race directors, ideally by the beginning of next year.”

He also addressed the ongoing controversy over the FIA’s decision to strictly impose its rules forbidding drivers from wearing jewellery during races. The regulation was introduced in 2005, while Max Mosley was FIA president. Ben Sulayem took over from Jean Todt in the role at the end of last year, since when the governing body has reinforced the ban on jewellery.

“I love jewellery,” said Ben Sulayem. “I absolutely love it. But in the car there can be no choice.

“People say they [the rules] haven’t been implemented before. Don’t ask me why not. People can ask the old regime why that is the case.”

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Keith Collantine
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41 comments on “FIA seeking third race director for F1, “might use” Masi in a role”

  1. RandomMallard
    17th May 2022, 17:03

    I did read this a few days ago. Not sure it’s the best course of action. Even if we ignore Abu Dhabi, I think there’s enough bad marks on his record (SC in Baku 2021, Spa 2021, Turkey 2020 etc.) to make finding a different person as a third RD a more favourable option at the moment. Furthermore, he had clearly lost the respect of the team principals, and one the competitors lose respect for the referee, it probably isn’t a good idea to keep using the same referee (you could argue that the team principals should also change their behaviour, and that’s absolutely correct, but I think with Masi the damage has already been done)

    1. I would agree that he should not come back given that there were several major safety breaches during his time, some of which were utterly reckless – the incident in Turkey, where he admitted that he deliberately didn’t bother checking whether the marshals had actually finished clearing Magnussen’s car before restarting the session, could be quite seriously considered deliberate negligence under the health and safety legislation of multiple different countries, for example.

      When you consider the number of near misses that occurred under his management, it feels like it would only be a matter of time before a marshal was injured or killed if he was back in charge, given that we had multiple cases where marshals came into close proximity to cars travelling at high speed because of his decision to rush proceedings or to take shortcuts that he should not have done.

    2. Abu Dhabi isn’t even in my top 5 of most egregious calls. But just because the Abu Dhabi incident was so triggering to some fans, I would rather someone else take the post. I’m tired of seeing the same comments over and over about Masi’s role in Abu Dhabi. Let’s get someone else with a clean slate. Let Masi continue his career elsewhere.

      1. Well said

    3. I actually read what he is saying that they might use Masi in SOME role, possibly even as race director in other series, not that they plan on having HIM be that third one in the team @randommallard

  2. “Might use Masi” = {Happy Verstappen/Wheatley noises}

    1. You do know that RBR was on the receiving end of penalties much more often than Mercedes. Even in Abu Dhabi you could hear them over the radio complaining about Masi. So yeah, don’t act like Masi returning would be some sort of benefit for Red Bull. I know it’s convenient and more comfortable to think that Lewis lost the championship in Abu Dhabi, as opposed to the many mistakes he made that season

      1. @ajpennypacker

        They still went Into the final race level on points.

        It needed to finish without external intervention unless of course required as per the rules of the sport…

        But I do agree not wanting to turn over that gigantic boulder…

        I’d rather they didn’t bring him back.

      2. @ajpennypacker

        I know it’s convenient and more comfortable to think that Lewis lost the championship in Abu Dhabi, as opposed to the many mistakes he made that season

        But the fact is it did come down to the last five laps and the decision made by Masi, and that decided who won the WDC.
        I’ll say it again it was not Masis’ intent to gift the WDC to any particular driver or team. His actions were always based on the ‘show’ and the desire by Liberty to promote F1 as a soap opera drama as depicted in DTS.
        That’s more than enough reason to keep Masi out of F1.

      3. @ajpennypacker exercise a little levity, it was only a throwaway comment.

      4. Two free issue victories probably puts them in the Masi camp.

      5. Donna Goodman
        18th May 2022, 15:34

        That’s not quite true, redbull benefited more than Mercedes and then again massively at the season finale, there will be uproar if they bring him back, they won’t risk it, he was let go for a reason

  3. Would be good to see him back in a guest role. If the championship is close between Verstappen and Leclerc would be the obvious reason to do that.

  4. Although I think Masi has been sacrificied as a scapegoat I don’t see him return to his old role in F1. If he returns every decission will be under a magnifying glass again and lead to new discussions. Was happy that this season they let them race more and we have less time penalty’s for small incidents

    1. Sadly I agree with this. I think Masi has been ‘thrown under the bus’ somewhat, and though I believe there has been far more at play than some of his poorer decisions (Magnussen Istanbul green flag come to mind), him coming back as race director is a no win situation, everyone will be all over him and every decision he makes, and he’ll know it, which perhaps will make it worse. I think a fresh start is best for everyone concerned.

  5. As a Masi critic from day 1, I must say Niels isn’t doing any better. I appreciate the discretion though. The stakes have been low but I already see a consistency nightmare brewing. Not to mention just last race the vsc call was ridiculous and dangerous.

    1. @peartree The brief VSC before full SC? Not the first time such a transition has happened, so checking whether VSC is enough is perfectly normal & safe.

      1. Isn’t that almost the standard way of doing it for several years now @jerejj, @peartree, immediately going to VSC and then have a look and if needed bring in the SC?

        1. @bascb More often than not, yes.

          1. @peartree @jerejj @bascb sometimes it’s blatantly obvious that full SC is needed, and Miami was one of those occasions, no idea why it took so long

          2. I think it’s simply that calling the VSC is immediate @3dom – The incident happens, the race director gets an echo, the race director presses a button and the systems engage, showing drivers to slow down immediately.

            Calling a SC, while it’s sitting prepared in the pitlane with the driver seated and fuellled, still means the race director has to look at the situation, then talking to the SC crew over the radio to check everything is really ready and that they are ready to go out, inform everyone, have the SC drive out of the pitlane and then picking up the leaders. It is not always needed, and it takes a while (a short while in obvious cases, but still it is some time) to decide on its need and then to actually bring it out.
            For safety it is better if in between the incident happening and having the SC out there, the field is already slowed with the VSC IMO.

  6. I was quite outspoken about Charlie Whiting during his last year in charge and called for him to stand down. Obviously it was tragic the way his tenure ended and I never wanted to see that, but with Masi, it’s definitely a case of better the devil you know. Masi was awful from day 1, but I cut him slack initially because he had big boots to fill at such short notice…. but, this was all brought on by F1. They needed someone fully qualified and approved a good 5 years before Charlie passed. Buy a lack of foresight and planning left them in a hole that they’re still really stuck in, as 2x part timers who’s primary role is elsewhere is not a great solution.

    1. @eurobrun to be fair to FIA, Masi was supposed to operate alongside Whiting for about 5 years before handing over the reigns. So it had been seen and it was being addressed. Should it have happened earlier? Of course, but hindsight is always 20/20.

  7. i think it is a good thing to have him back.

    with all the clarifications being given with the rule book now after the last season.. i think he deserves a second chance..

    if he still messes up .. well then we know..

    -an xx-LH fan. (cant take the Woke BS anymore). not that it matters! lol

  8. Er. No.

    Bad idea. Very bad idea.

  9. Doubtful he would or even could return, even by sharing the RD responsibilities with Wittich & Freitas.
    Quite a lot of damage got done under his tenure & I’m unsure how repairable the damage he caused is.

  10. The fact that Ben Sulayem has raised this publicly makes me think he’s gauging the reaction before making a decision. The fact he’s considering it at all makes me think he’s possibly come under pressure from Liberty to reinstate Masi because he makes decisions based on promotional considerations rather than safety or rule-based.
    Also to send a message that he and the FIA will not be dictated to… OooKay.

    1. Also to send a message that he and the FIA will not be dictated to…

      Perhaps the most important message the FIA can send – especially to the F1 teams, @johnrkh.
      Regain authority and stop being walked over by the participants.

      1. S It’s a manufacturer’s sport and unfortunately, I feel both Liberty and the manufacturers have a similar goal to get F1 to reach the same marketing power as the Olympics. That means it will be all about the optics the spectacle…the show.
        With all of the teams now being owned or ‘influenced’ by manufacturers, (RB excluded) that means any hope of any radical innovative engineering is gone.
        Wait for the new regs for 2026 I think we’ll see some interesting developments in the scope of design.

        The reason I still watch is this, F1 attracts the best hard surface/circuit drivers in the world. The tech and engineering may be knobbled but the driving is still top-notch.

        The FIA has been a pawn for decades, I had hoped this new fellow may try to change that but it seems not. Perhaps it’s not over yet we’ll see.

        1. It’s a manufacturer’s sport and unfortunately, I feel both Liberty and the manufacturers have a similar goal to get F1 to reach the same marketing power as the Olympics.

          I’d agree with that – but it’s not going to get there if the rules are constantly being changed/ignored just to satisfy the participants.
          How popular would football be if the same was happening there? What level of satisfaction would it produce?

          F1 attracts the best hard surface/circuit drivers in the world.

          I don’t think there’s any real evidence to suggest that F1 drivers are more talented than drivers competing in other series.
          It’s just that these are the people who have pursued this career path, and had the financial/commercial backing to reach and stay here. ‘Talent’ is not a constant, and, in F1 in particular, the subjective measurement of it is totally reliant on many external factors.

          The FIA has been a pawn for decades

          In no small part due to the previous FIA boss allowing that to happen.
          Now they have a new one who has never worked in an F1 team, has come from a different motorsports background and sees the world just a little bit differently.

          Some have commented that the FIA has lost the respect of the teams – to which my response can really only be that they don’t need it. They aren’t – or shouldn’t be – on the teams’ side. They should be completely impartial and merely apply the rules. Being consistent and impartial is the best way to earn that respect – and ultimately, the commercial benefits they seek.
          If the competition can be argued to be unfair, everyone loses.

  11. The only thing that should remain in F1 regarding Masi is Max’s* nickname, Masi Verstappen*. Nothing else. Good riddance.

  12. I have an opinion
    18th May 2022, 0:04

    Ben Sulayem’s latest gambit in his power struggle with Sir Lewis.

  13. All that matters is Masi’s stance on jewelry!

  14. Masi’s only significant mistake was to try to work with the teams rather than simply tell them how it’s going to be. Needless to say, they took advantage of that.

    Bringing Masi back would show that the problem wasn’t the Race Director, but was almost entirely the culture within F1 toward Race Direction.

  15. I guess what MBS is hinting at is that Masi will be brought back in a different role, similar to what was discussed in the off-season, rather than reinstating him as race director for some of the time.

    1. Yeah, he might even be part of the team in that review office that will be backing the race directors or something @red-andy. To me it is also pretty clear MBS is not thinking of putting him back into the role. And I doubt Masi would be interested.

  16. By all means use him in F1 but not as a Race Director or anyone that has oversight of the race directors. He has proven time and time again he doesn’t listen to others and believes he is beyond reproach even when proven he’s in the wrong. Clearly he must have some skills the sport can use though but he had his chance at the big role and he blew it.

  17. Tim (@tsgoodchild)
    18th May 2022, 10:54

    FIA to Lewis: Remove your jewellery.
    Lewis to FIA: I’d rather not.
    FIA to Lewis: We might bring back Masi.

  18. They promised Mercedes they would remove Masi, but secretly planned to reinstate him soon after – very disingenuous.

  19. Why would they bring the Turnip back?

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