Michael Masi has been removed from his role as the Race Director of Formula 1. The move, following the controversial end to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021 and an overall season of miss-matched stewarding decisions.
Following an investigation into the race the FIA presented its findings to teams earlier this week and Masi was relieved of his position. He has been offered another role within the FIA but the role of F1 Race Director, starting from pre-season testing, will now be alternated between World Endurance Championship Race Director Eduardo Freitas and former DTM race director Niels Wittich.
Also announced by FIA chief Mohammed Ben Sulayem was the introduction of a new virtual race control. Working centrally like football’s Video Assistant Referee system the virtual race control will work from FIA offices to help race control should extra assistance be needed. Ben Sulayem said this will help the roving race control stay in better contact with the FIA and improve application of the sporting regulations race-to-race.
Teams will also no longer be able to contact the race director during the race. The 2021 season saw an increasing trend in radio calls being played out, mostly from Red Bull and Mercedes to the race director, some of which, especially from Abu Dhabi, helped to fan the flames of conspiracy theories post-race. Teams will be able to contact the race director, but not directly over the radio.
While no changes have been announced to the regulations regarding safety cars, Ben Sulayem said that they are being reassessed by the FIA’s Sporting Advisory Committee. It was the choice to allow a certain number of lapped cars to pass the Safety Car in Abu Dhabi that led to the controversial end to the 2021 F1 season.
WEC race director Freitas has developed a strong reputation for even-handedness during his time in the championship, although his handling of the controversial end to the GTE-Pro race in Bahrain last year was strongly criticised after a penalty was apparently handed out and rescinded mid-race. Freitas and Wittich will be joined by long-standing F1 figure Herbie Blash. The former assistant to Charlie Whiting as race director rejoins as a permanent senior advisor.
Concerns about the officiating in Formula 1 had been clear throughout last season, long before the Abu Dhabi race. Incidents at Silverstone, Imola, Saudi Arabia, Monza and Brazil between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen seemed to showcase an inconsistency in how F1’s rules were being enforced.
Masi’s position had been seen as difficult since Abu Dhabi. His role was always a difficult one in directly following the much liked Charlie Whiting, who passed away suddenly at the start of the 2019 season.