Former F1 race director Michael Masi leaves FIA, governing body confirms

Sport

Michael Masi, the former Formula One race director who was at the centre of Lewis Hamilton’s failed bid to win a record eighth world championship, has quit the FIA.

The Australian was sacked as race director in February following his mishandling of the contentious season decider last year in Abu Dhabi, which provided Max Verstappen with the chance to beat Hamilton in a final-lap shootout.

In February the new FIA president, Mohammed ben Sulayem, said Masi had been offered a new role within the organisation. But the 44-year-old’s departure from F1’s governing body was announced on Tuesday – exactly seven months after the title decider which cost him his job.

“The FIA confirms that Michael Masi has decided to leave the FIA and relocate to Australia to be closer to his family and take on new challenges,” an FIA statement said.

“[Michael] oversaw a three-year period as FIA Formula One race director and safety delegate following the sudden passing of Charlie Whiting in 2019, carrying out the numerous functions he was tasked with in a professional and dedicated manner. The FIA thanks him for his commitment and wishes him the best for the future.”

Masi was replaced as race director after he broke the rules when he allowed a number of drivers between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves following a late safety-car period in Abu Dhabi. Red Bull’s Verstappen, who was on fresher tyres, passed Hamilton to take the drivers’ title on the final lap.

After reviewing the incident, the FIA said Masi “acted in good faith and to the best of his knowledge” but conceded he performed a “human error”. Hamilton’s Mercedes team lodged an appeal against the result, which was dropped amid reports of an agreement that Masi would be removed – an accusation that Mercedes have strenuously denied.

Before his sacking, Masi received the backing of a number of drivers – including the four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and the British McLaren driver Lando Norris. Verstappen later accused the FIA of “throwing Masi under the bus” after he was stood down.

Masi was replaced by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who currently alternate as race director – but their appointments have not been met with universal approval. Freitas was criticised after the Monaco Grand Prix was delayed by rain in May.

The double world champion Fernando Alonso questioned Wittich’s knowledge of the job at the Spanish Grand Prix in May. Vettel was handed a suspended £21,000 fine by the FIA after he walked out of a drivers’ briefing conducted by Wittich at the recent Austrian Grand Prix.