Michael Masi, who was ousted as race director at the end of the final Grand Prix of the 2021 Formula One season in Abu Dhabi last December, has spoken publicly for the first time since the controversy surrounding that race, where ‘human error’ on his part turned the F1 World Championship on its head.
The Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race of the 2021 season, was the epilogue to the battle for the world title between Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. With only one lap remaining in the race, and with the British driver ahead of the Dutchman, all the drivers were grouped together behind the safety car, after a crash by Nicholas Latifi (Williams). While the race should have ended with the safety car, race director Michael Masi decided to change the rules and bring it in before the last lap.
This decision was not in accordance with the regulations according to a later review, despite Masi following the agreement between the FIA and teams ahead of any racing where ‘green flag racing’ is preferable to finishing a GP under safety car conditions. This was a turning point in the race to win the world title and Lewis Hamilton was thus deprived of an eighth World Championship title, as Max Verstappen was crowned for the very first time.
This controversial decision, which has been the subject of much debate for weeks, led to the removal of Michael Masi from his position as race director in order to appease Mercedes and Hamilton. For the first time since the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Australian spoke publicly, but did not directly address the high-profile incident:
“The personal support of my family, friends and colleagues around the world during this journey and especially over the past few months can only be described as overwhelming and something I will always cherish,
“It has been a pleasure and an honour to represent the FIA as FIA Single Seater Sporting Director and Race Director and FIA Formula One Safety Delegate since the unexpected and tragic death of Charlie Whiting in Melbourne 2019,” he said.
Michael Masi went on to reveal his future plans, while expressing his pride at having been able to work in Formula 1:
“After working on various projects around the world with the Federation and its member clubs for more than ten years prior to my appointment, I have decided to leave the organisation and return to Australia to be closer to my family and friends,
I am proud to have worked in partnership for many years with the various FIA member clubs, Formula One Group, competitors, promoters and circuit operators, as well as my colleagues and the FIA internal team. I will always cherish the relationships and friendships I have developed along the way. In particular,
I am eternally grateful to Herbie Blash and the late Charlie Whiting for identifying me as a future successor in 2018, a role I was eager to observe and learn from Charlie for many years before his sudden passing.”
Finally, Masi concluded by thanking the major figures in motorsport:
“I also pass on my sincere thanks for the support and guidance given during my tenure by former FIA President Jean Todt, Stefano Domenicali (F1 CEO). I thank FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem and his presidential team for their personal support since their appointment and wish them all the best for the future.”