Formula 1 has stayed pretty quiet since its race director Michael Masi bent the rules surrounding safety car use in the closing stages of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. But now, as the start of the new season looms, it looks like the sport may soon make changes following the fallout. And that means the job of race director Michael Masi may be on the line.
According to numerous reports, Masi’s job may be at risk as a result of the calls he made in the closing stages of the 2021 F1 world championship. Five laps before the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a crash from Williams driver Nicholas Latifi brought out the safety car.
To ensure the race finished under green flag conditions, Masi rushed the process in which the safety car was called in. He allowed the five lapped cars between race leader Lewis Hamilton and championship rival Max Verstappen to unlap themselves. Then, he immediately called the safety car in with just one lap of racing left.
In most normal scenarios, either no lapped cars should have been released, or all lapped cars in the field would have been allowed to pass. The remaining cars would then have completed another lap behind the safety car before it peeled off into the pits. If this had happened in Abu Dhabi, the race would have finished behind the safety car.
So, now that you’re up to speed on what happened back in December, here’s what’s changed since: Nothing.
The FIA has delayed publishing its report into the incident until March the 18th, which eagle-eyed readers will notice is the start of the 2022 F1 season. Despite this radio silence from the sport’s governing body, whispers have been circling since December that the farce was the final nail in the coffin for Masi’s career as race director.
Now, according to Motorsport.com, the FIA has admitted that Masi’s job may be under threat. The site said that senior FIA official Peter Bayer told reporters that the race director could be replaced ahead of the 2022 season.
The site said:
“‘He has done a super job,’ Bayer told journalist Gerhard Kuntschik when asked about Masi.
‘We have told him that, but also that there is a possibility that there will be a new race director’.”
As well as potentially replacing Masi, the FIA could also implement a new race-management structure.
According to the BBC, sources have said that the FIA plans to introduce a series of safeguards that will leave the race director freer to make decisions in a calmer environment.
The BBC said:
“This is likely to include a barrier between that role and the teams to avoid the direct lobbying to which Masi was subjected from the team bosses of both Mercedes and Red Bull in Abu Dhabi.
“Revisions to the operations of the stewards – who are independent of the race director and decide on penalties for breaches of the rules – are also being considered.”
So, it does sound like the FIA is ready to learn from its mistakes. But the sport’s reputation has taken a hit with fans and famous faces taking a stance against its rule-changing tactics at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
On top of this, there are some who think the changes the FIA makes to prevent such an incident from happening again could influence Hamilton’s decision to return to the sport.
The seven-time world champion has remained tight-lipped since the incident, with rumors abound that he may not return to contest a record-breaking eighth title in 2022.