London — Michael Masi has been removed as Formula One race director over his management of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year which led to Max Verstappen being controversially crowned world champion.
Masi was heavily criticised for the sequence of events that led to Verstappen passing Lewis Hamilton to deprive the Briton of a record eighth title.
“Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three years as Formula 1 race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA,” read a statement by FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
“Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will act alternatively as Race Director, assisted by Herbie Blash as permanent senior advisor.”
Sulayem also announced that measures will be introduced to ease the pressure on the race director.
“Firstly, to assist the race director in the decision-making process, a Virtual Race Control Room will be created. Alike the Video Assistance Referee (VAR) in football, it will be positioned in one of the FIA Offices as a backup outside the circuit,” said Sulayem.
“In real-time connection with the FIA F1 race director, it will help to apply the sporting regulations using the most modern technological tools.”
Sulayem said the mode of communicating with the race director would be different from now on.
“Direct radio communications during the race, currently broadcast live by all TVs, will be removed in order to protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully.
“It will still be possible to ask questions to the race director, according to a well-defined and non-intrusive process.”
Masi had been heavily panned after calling in the safety car for the final lap then controversially allowing the backmarkers between race leader Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves.
That led to a one lap shoot-out between Hamilton and Verstappen, who with fresh tyres had a huge advantage and he exploited it to stunning effect when he picked Hamilton off to seal the title.
Sulayem said that these rules regarding unlapping would be addressed.
“Unlapping procedures behind safety car will be reassessed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the next F1 Commission prior to the start of the season.”