The end of the 2021 season saw outrage as Max Verstappen took the world champion title from Lewis Hamilton in one of the most controversial endings to an F1 season yet. It was later revealed that this win by Verstappen was a result of “human error”, and Masi lost his role as race director. Despite this, the championship win for Verstappen still stands, much to Toto Wolff’s dismay.
The issue stemmed from the final laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in which Masi allowed the lapped cars between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton to un-lap themselves. This allowed the Red Bull driver to restart the race right behind Hamilton as the safety car exited the track.
With worn tyres on the Mercedes, Verstappen easily overtook the 7-time world champion before taking the win.
Hamilton admitted that he believed the race was “manipulated”, and now Wolff has revealed what he really thinks about Masi:
“It is quite interesting because I had lunch with him [Masi] on the Wednesday before the race, and I said to him that ‘I really want to tell you, without patronising you, that you need to take criticism on board and develop from there. Lewis does it every day, but you are a guy who always seems to know better’,” he told the press.
“It wasn’t about influencing him but really giving my honest feedback that he shouldn’t block outside opinion as simply being wrong.
“You hear from the drivers and how the drivers’ briefings were conducted [by Masi] and some of the guys said it was almost disrespectful how he treated some of them.”
Verstappen on the other hand doesn’t believe that the removing Masi from the role of race director was the right thing to do:
“He was just immune to any feedback and even today he has not properly reflected that he did something wrong.
“He was a liability for the sport because everybody kept talking about Abu Dhabi and the race director, and the race director should not be somebody that people talk about, but someone who does the job and makes sure the race is run according to the regulations.”
Hamilton is currently fifth in the drivers’ standings after a lucky couple of races at Bahrain and Australia where he finished P3 and P4 respectively. Saudi Arabia wasn’t so lucky for the Brit as he finished P10 thanks to an unfortunately timed pit entrance closure.
After last weekend, Charles Leclerc is leading the drivers’ standing, 43 points ahead of Hamilton.
Between now and Imola – taking place on April 24 – Hamilton and teammate George Russell with be at Mercedes’ Brackley factory to try and iron out the performance issues they’re having as porpoising and a lack of traction still plagues their races. I’m sure a celebration will also be on the cards after Russell achieved his first podium with Mercedes.