SPORT: Formula 1
ABU DHABI SCANDAL
Michael Masi fired as Formula race director.

Michael Masi has been dis­missed as F1 race direc­tor as part of a restruc­tur­ing of the FIA’s gov­ern­ing body fol­low­ing last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

FIA Pres­i­dent Mohammed bin Sulayem announced a series of changes fol­low­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion into last year’s con­tro­ver­sial World Cham­pi­onship finish.

Masi failed to apply the rules cor­rect­ly in a late safe­ty car peri­od and had a direct impact on the out­come of the title race.

Two men will now alter­nate in the role, while addi­tion­al assis­tance will be pro­vid­ed to officials.

The new race direc­tors will be Eduar­do Fre­itas, who pre­vi­ous­ly played the role in the World Endurance Cham­pi­onship, and Niels Wit­tich, who did so in the Ger­man DTM Tour­ing Car Championship.

Masi will be “offered a new posi­tion with­in the FIA,” said Ben Sulayem.

In addi­tion, as part of a wider restruc­tur­ing of race man­age­ment to pro­vide a more serene envi­ron­ment, direct radio com­mu­ni­ca­tion between teams and the race direc­tor will no longer be allowed.

In Abu Dhabi, Masi was pres­sured by the Mer­cedes and Red Bull teams to make deci­sions in their favor. The huge con­tro­ver­sy after the race arose because he seemed to fol­low Red Bul­l’s sug­ges­tions, to the advan­tage of their dri­ver Max Ver­stap­pen over Mer­cedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

After Masi did­n’t apply the rules cor­rect­ly in two ways — on timed car man­age­ment and restart tim­ing — Ver­stap­pen used his new tires to over­take Hamil­ton on the old ones and win his first world title.

Before that, Hamil­ton had dom­i­nat­ed the race and was on course for a record eighth championship.

An FIA spokesman said the report on the fail­ures in Abu Dhabi would be released at the sea­son-open­ing race in Bahrain on March 19.

Teams will still be allowed to ask ques­tions of race man­age­ment, Ben Sulayem said, “accord­ing to well-defined procedures”.

These should be addressed to a new lay­er of per­son­nel in race con­trol, to keep the pres­sure direct­ly on the race director.

Fre­itas and Wit­tich will be assist­ed by F1 vet­er­an Her­bie Blash, who was deputy race direc­tor under for­mer FIA F1 direc­tor Char­lie Whiting.

Masi assumed the role of race direc­tor when Whit­ing passed away on the eve of the 2019 F1 season.

The FIA will add remote race con­trol that will work in the same way as the video assis­tant ref­er­ee in soccer.

Ben Sulayem said he pre­sent­ed the plan to teams at an F1 Com­mis­sion meet­ing on Mon­day, although that was con­tra­dict­ed by insid­ers who said only a vague out­line was giv­en there.

He added that he had received the “full sup­port” of the FIA World Coun­cil and Senate.

“With this plan, the FIA is paving the way for a new step for­ward in For­mu­la One ref­er­ee­ing. With­out ref­er­ees, there is no sport,” he said.

“Respect and sup­port for ref­er­ees is in the essence of the FIA. That is why these struc­tur­al changes are cru­cial in a con­text of strong devel­op­ment and legit­i­mate expec­ta­tions from dri­vers, teams, con­struc­tors, organ­is­ers and of course the fans.

“These changes will allow us to start the 2022 For­mu­la 1 sea­son in the best pos­si­ble con­di­tions, and our sport will be even more loved.

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