Two new F1 race directors set to join the Formula 1 circus? The suggestion is from the FIA president that this is indeed the case, therefore the incumbent directors, Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, would have only lasted one season as F1 race directors. Bring back Michael Masi perhaps?
Eduardo Freitas was actually put to one side after the Japanese GP, while Niels Wittich was heavily criticised after the US GP in Austin. The FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has not confirmed that current F1 race directors Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich will continue in the role for the 2023 season, indeed hinting that a new set of directors are currently ‘in training’, with some mentioning bringing back the successor to Charlie Whiting, Michael Masi.
Masi dismissed, but waiting in the wings?
Following the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where former race director Michael Masi made a series of alleged ‘mistakes’ (or interruptions), the FIA decided to replace the Australian with two race directors from the 2022 season. A tactic that clearly failed, with the FIA nearly bringing back Masi on a couple of occasions, including Miami last year.
Since August, Masi has officially left the FIA but is understood to be in contact with president Mohammed Ben Sulayem. In September, Masi was appointed the independent Chairman of the Supercars Commission in Australia, then appointed to the board of directors of Karting Australia in December and began working in the role on 1 January 2023.
Speaking via his Twitch channel, former Williams and Ferrari team manager Peter Windsor has implied Masi would embrace the opportunity to return to F1 and suggest he would probably represent an upgrade on the current regime.
“Masi is working in motorsport in Australia again and he’s doing race direction stuff again.
“One of my mates said that if Formula 1 made him an offer, he’d probably come back and he’d probably do a very, very good job compared with where we are at the moment.”
Current directors not fit for purpose
Meanwhile, Niels Wittich alternated in the position throughout last season, although Eduardo Freitas has not been seen in the paddock since the Japanese GP when another controversy erupted after a crane appeared on the track.
Niels Wittich, for his part, seems to have lost the confidence of the FIA following the dispute between Alpine and Haas at last year’s US Grand Prix when Fernando Alonso drove on track with a damaged car, but the Haas team lodged its complaint outside the legal time limit.
New directors coming
Regarding the 2023 season, which begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 5, the FIA president said the governing body is currently training stewards and race directors, but did not confirm the presence of the two current directors Freitas and Wittich.
“We are currently working with my team on race directors,” Ben Sulayem told the media at a press conference on the Dakar.
“We are going to train the stewards and the race directors. You can’t have just one race director and trust him completely all year round. So we have to think about training a second line.”
“If we want to support the world of motorsport, we have to be prepared with better training, and we believe that somewhere there is always a better race director and a better steward.”
So there could well be two new race directors this season in Formula 1, with the latter expected to be announced shortly before the campaign starts (late February or early March).
Could one of these be Michael Masi?