Formula 1 race director Michael Masi has come under extreme criticism this season playing referee to two Title rivals going at it with all that they’ve got, creating precedents on their way to the final round in Abu Dhabi where Masi will once again be doing the job no one wants.
All the criticism pointed at Masi and the everchanging Stewards committee he oversees, was based on inconsistencies in judging the transgressions teams and drivers have committed over the course of the season, with extra emphasis being placed on whatever goes on between this year’s Title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, and both their teams Mercedes and Red Bull.
The squabbling parties have not made Masi’s life any easier, and look set to give him one final torture session this weekend at the season finale in Abu Dhabi, as they fight it out for the last time in 2021 in an effort to secure the coveted F1 Drivers’ Crown, the Constructors being all but secured by Mercedes.
Masi cannot control the actions of the two individuals
Speaking to the Daily Mail ahead of this weekend Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Masi is not so sure he can predict what either of the title rivals will do, but he knows what to do if any of them crosses the line.
“I can’t control the actions of the two individuals, only they can,” he admits. “But within the regulations we have penalties, be it time or grid penalties.
“In addition, the International Sporting Code has provision for the stewards to disqualify a competitor or dock championship points.
Verstappen can win the Title if both he and Hamilton DNF in Abu Dhabi, courtesy of his nine wins against the Briton’s eight as they stand equal on points, which has raised speculations regarding him doing anything to make sure he wins his maiden F1 title.
Masi, however, insists things won’t be that straightforward, saying when the matter was intimated to him: “So, yes, Max could be deducted points, as could any team.
“We hope it isn’t necessary, but it is one of the tools available. I will remind all the teams and drivers of these provisions,” the Australian revealed.
Both fighting camps have come out at certain points this season pointing fingers at Masi and the Stewards while crying foul regarding penalties handed out to either of them.
Masi, on the other hand, sees it differently saying: “While they may not want to admit it, deep down they all know what is deemed legal, what is fair game, what is hard but fair racing and what is not.
“Every incident has to be treated separately,” he went on. “While they may look similar, they are not necessarily identical.
“There is a common belief I am responsible for the punishments meted out, but it is down to an independent panel of stewards to decide if a penalty is warranted,” the 42-year-old clarified.
Masi misses Charlie Whiting as well
Christian Horner said in Saudi Arabia that F1 missed Charlie Whiting, the late and highly esteemed former F1 Race Director, whom Masi succeeded after his sudden death in 2019, at a hotel ahead of the 2019 Australian Grand Prix.
“These comments are no worries,” Masi said shrugging off the criticism. “We have seen in the heat of the battle both Christian and Toto (Wolff, of Mercedes) say various things off the cuff. They are entitled to their perspectives.”
And continued to pay his respect to Whiting: “I would be the first to say I miss having Charlie as a point of reference, with his huge experience.
“I and my team are doing the best job we can. People are upset if something doesn’t go their way. I understand. It is elite sport,” Masi explained.
As for his “bargaining exchange” with Red Bull during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix regarding Verstappen’s starting position after the Red flag having passed Hamilton outside the track limits, Masi said: “This happens during a race — giving people the ability to give a position up.
“The difference was it was under a red flag and more focus was on it.
“It is the most pragmatic way of dealing with it, saying, ‘You can do this or it will be referred to the stewards and it will likely result in a time penalty’.
“It was just that the discussion took a bit longer because the race was suspended,” Masi clarified.
Masi wishes to have a clean Title showdown in Abu Dhabi
Masi then echoed what all the F1 community has been saying post-Jeddah, in terms of having a clean F1 Title showdown in Abu Dhabi.
“I hope it is not decided in the stewards’ room, but by the two guys out on the track. It is up to them and nobody else,” the Race Director concluded.
One of the factors that may have played an extra role in putting Masi in the spotlight may have been the new trend of broadcasting almost anything the drivers, teams, and F1 personnel say over the radio exchange during race weekends, which wasn’t standard practice in the days of the late Charlie Whiting.
Would Whiting have been criticized even more had we heard all that he used to say in the heat of battle?