Why Masi's F1 future is the next big decision facing the FIA

Thursday's statement by the FIA provided the first signs of progress for the investigation into Formula 1's controversial season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Why Masi's F1 future is the next big decision facing the FIA
Listen to this article

Newly-elected FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been handed a difficult task in reviewing what happened in the closing stages of the title decider between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, and taking action to restore trust among F1 drivers, teams and fans in the governing body.

The hints of change within the update from the FIA should offer some encouragement, even if the timeline remains a source of frustration for many. Any decisions or changes may not receive final approval from the World Motor Sport Council until 18 March, just two days before the new season begins in Bahrain.

But one decision that needs to arrive sooner than that concerns the future of the man at the centre of the furore: race director Michael Masi.

Masi's call to restart the race with one lap remaining in Abu Dhabi sparked outcry from Mercedes after Hamilton was overtaken by Verstappen. Hamilton claimed over the radio on the final lap that it had been "manipulated", while Mercedes launched a protest against the restart that was ultimately knocked back by the stewards.

The FIA's pledge to investigate what happened in Abu Dhabi put an end to further action from Mercedes, who dropped its appeal plans but promised to hold F1's governing body to account.

As outlined on Thursday, the FIA's review of Abu Dhabi will continue next week with the meeting of the Sporting Advisory Committee that includes the teams, while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff also met with FIA president Sulayem on Friday.

Wolff said after Mercedes ended its push to appeal the stewards' ruling that both he and Hamilton were "disillusioned" by what happened in Abu Dhabi, and he hoped it would not cause the seven-time world champion to walk away.

It is critical the FIA gives meaningful and clear answers to Hamilton and Mercedes.

The update on Thursday from the FIA did not provide any concrete decisions, particularly concerning the future for Masi. But it did reveal that secretary general for sport and recently-appointed single-seater director Peter Bayer would provide "proposals to review and optimise the organisation of the FIA F1 structure for the 2022 season", hinting at change for the coming year.

Addressing the wider structure of the FIA's F1 team would reach beyond simply potentially replacing Masi and appointing a new race director, a move that ex-F1 driver and current Sky Sports pundit Martin Brundle said would "not fix the problem" as "it's way too big a job for one person to handle in a 23-race season".

But even if the structure were to change and more support were to be given to the race director, it is hard to see a situation where Masi continues.

Michael Masi, Race Director, walks the track with an FIA colleague

Michael Masi, Race Director, walks the track with an FIA colleague

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Confidence in Masi has been lost by a number of drivers and teams, as indicated to Motorsport.com by sources in the paddock, due to the events in Abu Dhabi and other decisions taken during the rest of the season.

The reaction to the Turn 4 fight between Hamilton and Verstappen in Brazil left some drivers uncertain what was and was not permitted in on-track battles, while the handling of the incidents in Saudi Arabia also put race control in the spotlight.

Masi has proven to be a likeable figure in the F1 paddock since taking up the role in 2019 following the sudden passing of Charlie Whiting. On a personal level, many would be sorry to see him leave. But there is a feeling that if he continued in the role, future decisions would always be overshadowed by what happened in Abu Dhabi.

The challenge for the FIA is who it would replace Masi with, given the lack of obvious replacements, which again speaks to the need to restructure its F1 operations. Whiting made the role his own for close to 30 years, leaving impossible shoes to fill. As the calendar expands and the challenges grow greater, the stresses of the job will only build too.

Timing is going to be important for the FIA as it considers its next steps. It has outlined plans to talk with drivers and teams, where the role of Masi and race control's operations will surely be up for discussion.

Read Also:

A full analysis and some proposals will be presented to the F1 Commission in February before the World Motor Sport Council gives final approval on 18 March. It is important the FIA acts swiftly to ensure at least some first steps are taken by the time the paddock reconvenes as it looks to restore confidence.

The battle now for the FIA is to regain the trust it may have lost through Abu Dhabi, among the drivers, teams, and, crucially, the fans. Deciding on Masi's future and what any restructuring of its F1 team entails will be an important part of that.

shares
comments

Related video

Aston Martin appoints Mike Krack as F1 team principal
Previous article

Aston Martin appoints Mike Krack as F1 team principal

Next article

The 'single bullet' mentality behind Pourchaire's F1 hopes

The 'single bullet' mentality behind Pourchaire's F1 hopes
Load comments
The historic clues that offer hints of Hamilton’s next move Prime

The historic clues that offer hints of Hamilton’s next move

OPINION: Uncertainty over Lewis Hamilton's future has persisted since the race direction call that denied him an eighth world title in Abu Dhabi last month. But while walking away would be understandable, Hamilton has time and again responded well in the face of adversity and possesses all the tools needed to bounce back stronger than ever

What the FIA must do to restore F1's credibility Prime

What the FIA must do to restore F1's credibility

OPINION: The first stage of the 2022 Formula 1 pre-season is just over a month away, but the championship is still reeling from the controversial results of last year’s finale. The FIA acknowledges F1 has had its reputation dented as a result, so here’s how it could go about putting things right

The six subplots to watch in 2022 as a new F1 era begins Prime

The six subplots to watch in 2022 as a new F1 era begins

As Formula 1 prepares to begin a new era of technical regulations in 2022, We pick out six other key elements to follow this season

Formula 1
Jan 24, 2022
Why newly-retired Kimi Raikkonen won't miss F1 Prime

Why newly-retired Kimi Raikkonen won't miss F1

After 349 grand prix starts, 46 fastest laps, 21 wins and one world championship, Kimi Raikkonen has finally called time on his F1 career. In an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com on the eve of his final race, he explains his loathing of paddock politics and reflects on how motorsport has changed over the past two decades.

Formula 1
Jan 23, 2022
Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shake-up Prime

Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shake-up

Formula 1 cars will look very different this year as the long-awaited fresh rules finally arrive with the stated aim of improving its quality of racing. We break down what the return of 'ground effect' aerodynamics - and a flurry of other changes besides - means for the teams, and what fans can expect

Formula 1
Jan 21, 2022
Why F1's new era is still dogged by its old world problems Prime

Why F1's new era is still dogged by its old world problems

OPINION: The 2022 Formula 1 season is just weeks away from getting underway, but instead of focusing on what is to come, the attention still remains on what has been – not least the Abu Dhabi title decider controversy. That, plus other key talking points, must be resolved to allow the series to warmly welcome in its new era

Formula 1
Jan 20, 2022
The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022 Prime

The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022

Mick Schumacher’s knack of improving during his second season in a championship was a trademark of his junior formula career, so his progress during his rookie Formula 1 campaign with Haas was encouraging. His target now will be to turn that improvement into results as the team hopes to reap the rewards of sacrificing development in 2021

Formula 1
Jan 19, 2022
The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push Prime

The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push

As the driver of Formula 1’s medical car, Alan van der Merwe’s job is to wait – and hope his skills aren’t needed. James Newbold hears from F1’s lesser-known stalwart.

Formula 1
Jan 15, 2022