F1’s new Race director heavily criticised

It seems being the F1 race director is a poisoned chalice. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Following the farce in Spa 2021 where the cars ran behind the safety car only, Michael Massi told the teams he would endeavor to not finish races in future under the safety car.

Then came the season decider in Abu Dhabi. With a safety car deployed 5 laps before the end of the race, Massi interpreted the restart rules to allow a final lap shootout between Hamilton and Verstappen.

Toto Wolff and Mercedes cried ‘foul’ and for a short time threatened legal action, and the result is Michael Massi is no longer the F1 Race Director.

4 race weekends into the new season and Massi’s replacement, Niels Wittich, came in for some heavy criticism from Sky commentators David Croft and Paul Di Resta.

They were unhappy that DRS was not enabled until lap 34. Lewis Hamilton also questioned why this was not happening over the pit radio.

For Hamilton it ultimately made no difference because even when DRS was activated he appeared to lack the confidence to brake off line to get the DRS pass done at the end of the pit straight.

On the other hand, Yuki Tsunoda used DRS to great effect towards the end of the race passing Sebastian Vettel and Kevin Magnusson to claim P7 and his best result of the season.

Carlos Sainz hit the nail on the head when asked about the alleged inordinate delay in DRS being activated after the wet start.

“I think after what happened last year with George [and Bottas] in this main straight, they had a pretty big accident,” he told Sky Sports.

“I think it’s normal that the FIA is taking it easy with the DRS because it was a huge accident and the line is still wet so, it’s a risk/reward for the FIA and it’s normal the that they are taking it easy.”

Whilst a dry line appeared several laps before the teams decided to ditch the intermediate tyres, off line it was still wet.

Even after DRS was enabled, drivers like Hamilton were circumspect to drive off line in the braking zone when using the DRS.

There were also non-DRS passes during the race and so on balance the race director probably made the right call.

Neils Wittich has now had his first taste of scrutiny over the decisions he will be making when managing the races this season.

7 responses to “F1’s new Race director heavily criticised

  1. Obviously a difficult job. They need someone with vast F1 experience, full knowledge of the rules and won’t take shit from anyone. I can only think of one person but LM have him on other duties.

    Failing that, what’s Jacques Villeneuve doing these days?

  2. Sainz (& Seb) ultimately had the best response.
    While I equally wished for DRS becoming available sooner, waiting as long as Wittich did was fair partly given what happened last season with the track still damp.

    • The race director is now a potential scapegoat for those unlucky not to benefit or be directly affected by any decisions made by them, or by the media or ex F1 failures.

      The way I see this one, it’s saved the complaints of some teams who’s cars would have been damaged from mistakes, budget cap and all. If anyone went off, he would have been blamed for allowing it when conditions were still damp.

      No one respects the race director. The guy who ultimately is responsible for these ‘best in the world drivers’ safety. Looking forward to a full wet race.

  3. Will Push to have a 2nd race director to be sacked from F1 not activating DRS till lap 34

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