Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, has slammed former Formula One race director Michael Masi, whose actions were crucial in denying Lewis Hamilton a possible seventh championship last season.
Masi, according to Toto Wolff, was a liability to the sport since he was disrespectful to drivers and refused to accept responsibility despite being dismissed from his position by the FIA.
Masi’s intervention in the title duel between Wolff’s Mercedes driver Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the season finale in Abu Dhabi last year, experimenting with the rules concerning the safety car and the way vehicles might unlap themselves, was crucial. On new tyres, it gave Verstappen the opportunity to charge and pass Hamilton on the penultimate lap, claiming his maiden championship.
The claim by Toto Wolff and the removal of Masi
Mercedes’ subsequent complaints were in vain, and Masi was later removed from his position by the FIA, which cited human error as a factor in the process. The affair has remained divisive, and Toto Wolff’s dissatisfaction with Masi’s behavior was evident four months later.
Everyone kept talking about Abu Dhabi and the race director, Toto Wolff continued, and he was a liability for the sport. The race director should not be someone who is talked about, but rather someone who does their job and ensures that the race is run in accordance with the rules.
Abu Dhabi GP and the Masi incident
During the final laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, both Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, lobbied Masi on behalf of their respective teams over the radio. Since then, the FIA has taken away their capacity to do so, with teams only being allowed to contact the race director through an intermediary. Masi was supposed to be transferred to another position inside the FIA, but that job has yet to be revealed.
Hamilton has stated that Verstappen did nothing wrong and acted as any other driver would in similar circumstances, while Toto Wolff has stated that the Dutchman’s triumph was overshadowed by Masi’s role.
Michael Masi’s replacement following the controversy
This year, Masi was replaced by Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, and the FIA implemented a number of new structures, including a standalone race control unit that works similarly to VAR in football.
Freitas and Wittich have been quite severe with their administration of the rules after three races this season, but have not made any big interventions. However, last week in Australia, Wittich sparked controversy by reminding drivers that they are not permitted to wear piercings or jewelry in the automobile for safety reasons. Hamilton has previously declared that he will not be removing some of his, stating that they were welded in in the instance of his ear.
In Australia, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc won for the second time in three races, while his current title challenger Verstappen was forced to retire due to a technical issue, his second of the season. In the championship race, Leclerc now has a substantial lead. He’s 34 points ahead of Hamilton’s colleague George Russell in second, 43 points ahead of Hamilton, and 46 points behind Verstappen. The next round will be held on April 24 at Imola.