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<strong>FIA confirms change of Race Director</strong>

Aditya Chaudhuri Aditya Chaudhuri

Michael Masi to be replaced from the 2022 season onwards.

The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has announced that Michael Masi will be replaced as the Formula One Race Director. The change comes as part of a series of changes following the FIA’s investigation into last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Masi, who had been the race director since 2019 after taking over from Charlie Whiting following his sudden death, will be replaced by Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich. Both Freitas and Wittich will rotate the position between them and will be assisted by a permanent senior advisor in Herbie Blash, who was previously Whiting’s deputy.

The change comes after the events of the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi which saw a controversial ending to the race that changed not only the race winner but also the World Champion. Masi’s handling of the late Safety Car period just to have a one-lap restart has been widely criticised, and following the FIA’s investigation, one of the outcomes was the removal of Masi. The FIA, though, has revealed that Masi will be offered a new position within the FIA.

Along with Masi’s removal, FIA President Mohammed bin Sulayem also announced additional changes which will be a ‘new step forward in Formula One refereeing’.

The new changes will see a new virtual race control room, much like the VAR in football, which will help the race director in making decisions. Radio communications with the race director during the race will not be broadcast anymore, and neither will team bosses be able to interfere in order to “protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully”. Sulayem also announced that the procedure of defining how cars unlap themselves behind a Safety Car will also be relooked at.

The last point was one of the talking points of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when Masi allowed only the five cars between race leader Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to unlap themselves during the restart. Masi initially had announced that none of the cars would be allowed to unlap themselves but then went back on his decision. Masi then also did not follow the rule book, which states that the Safety Car needs to come into the pits at the end of the following lap after the unlapping; Masi instead called the Safety Car in the same lap. Had he followed the rules, the race would’ve ended under the Safety Car and Hamilton would have won the race and championship.

FIA President Mohammed bin Sulayem, stated:

During the F1 commission meeting in London, I presented part of my plan for a new step forward in Formula One refereeing. Drawing conclusions from the detailed analysis of the events of the last F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and from the 2021 season, I proposed an in-depth reform of the organisation of refereeing and race direction. It was unanimously supported by F1 CEO and team principals.

Here is my plan for these structural changes: Firstly, to assist the race director in the decision-making process, a virtual race control room will be created, like the video assistant referee (VAR) in football.

Direct radio communications during the race, currently broadcast live by all TVs, will be removed in order to protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully. It will still be possible to ask questions to the race director, according to a well-defined and non-intrusive process.

Unlapping procedures behind Safety Car will be reassessed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the next F1 Commission prior to the start of the season. I presented this complete plan to the members of the World Motor Sport Council and the Senate who gave their full support.

With this plan, FIA opens the way for a new step forward in Formula 1 refereeing. Without the referees, there is no sport. Respect and support of the referees is in the essence of the FIA.

That is why these structural changes are crucial in a context of strong development and the legitimate expectations of drivers, teams, manufacturers, organisers, and of course, the fans.

The new management structure of Freitas and Wittich will take charge from the pre-season testing in Barcelona later this month. 

Michael Masi to be replaced from the 2022 season onwards.
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Aditya Chaudhuri

Aditya Chaudhuri

Hailing from the City of Joy, the things that bring me joy are cricket, a good non-tilt CS:GO session, F1 and movies.

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