He's by far the most hated man in Formula 1 at the moment. The social media comment sections are usually a sea of divided toxicity between Lewis Hamilton Fans and Max Verstappen fans yelling at each other and mentioning how they've made love to each others mothers. But one thing is certain, when Masi is involved, everyone is clearly out to rain down hate upon him.
A very quick recap for those that don't know, Michael Masi is the race director in Formula 1, his primary job is to make sure that races run smoothly and safely. His job isn't to hand out penalties, that's the job of the stewards, another fundamental flaw I'll get into soon. When an incident happens, like Nicholas Latifi crashing in the Abu Dhabi GP, dubbed the greatest race from last season . It was Masi's job to make sure that the car was cleared from the track, in a timely fashion, the marshals had moved the car, the safety car was deployed, the crash was investigated, while the whole world was shouting at him. He even mentioned to Christian Horner that his main priority isn't to get the race up and running again, it's to make sure that the track is cleared safely and if we can resume racing again, we will.
The problem the Australian had was this was the closest championship we've had in 50 years, we entered the final race with Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen on level points. So every single decision in that race was going to have an impact on the championship winner.
What's frustrating about this is it call comes down to this, not the incident in Baku with Max's Pirelli Tyres exploding, or Hamilton hitting the Magic Button, Max running wide in Bahrain and getting forced to give back a position, not Hamilton sending Max into a wall in the British GP, or Hamilton and Verstappen colliding in Monza, Not even the incident in Saudi Arabia, where Max and Lewis played silly buggers with each other. We're not talking about those moments, and even the moment at the start of the Abu Dhabi GP between Max and Lewis with Lewis running wide to avoid contact with Max and maintaining P1, no, the only incident that we're mentioning is that of the last lap of the race.
What happened was after the crash, Latifi going into the wall, a Safety Car was called and there was only 5 laps remaining, immediately, Max Verstappen pitted for fresh tyres, Hamilton wasn't able to pit and maintain position, so he stayed out and the order behind the safety car was Hamilton, 5 back markers and then Verstappen. In this situation, usually it would take a lap for those back markers to get unlapped and then another lap for the safety car to return to the pits. However Masi, aware that he was running out of laps, was fearful that he didn't want to end the season behind a safety car. He ordered that only the 5 lapped cars unlapped themselves and the safety car immediately return to the pits, therefore giving us 1 lap of racing where Max was right behind Lewis on fresher tyres. Max overtook Lewis a few turns into the lap and the rest is history, Max wins the race and the championship, Hamilton finishes second and then disappears for 2 months.
After the race Toto was on the blower to Masi to say how upset he was with the decision to restart and that Masi needs to reinstate the final lap. Masi said and I quote, 'Toto, It's called a motor race. We went car racing.'
It was an utter shit show, but it led to the most entertaining race of last season, if not the history of the sport. HOWEVER, some new audio has surfaced, a conversation between Jonathan Wheatley from Red Bull and Michael Masi. Below is the transcript of what was said.
Jonathan - 'Obviously those lapped cars, you don't need to let them go right round and catch up with the back of the pack'
Masi - 'Understood'
Jonathan - 'You need to let them go...'
Masi - 'Understood, just give me a second'
Jonathan - 'and then we got a motor race in our hands.'
Masi - 'Understood'
This conversation between Wheatley and Masi occurred while the cars were still parading around the track behind the Safety Car. The trouble thing here is that Masi used the term Motor Race with Toto to justify why they restarted, it was almost as if Masi was the puppet to Wheatley and Red Bull pulling the strings. I'm not a Lewis Hamilton or Mercedes fan boy, in fact, full disclosure, I wanted Max to win last year, but this new audio is damning and hurts Masi a lot.
Now do I think that Masi was bad at his job? kinda, but do I think there are a lot of other people out there that can step into the F1 Race Director role left by Charlie Whiting? No, not at all, Charlie had a team and history with all the constructors. Masi is a man on an island, by himself, the grade 4 stepping up to the grade 7s, he was prey being led to the slaughter and it wasn't a case of IF Masi were to stuff up in that role, but WHEN. Because the FIA and Formula 1 didn't give him a fighting chance.
I'm not sitting here calling for Masi's head, I want to see him back, I want to see him back with 1 or 2 other people as well, to assist in the hundreds of things going on during a race. You think about it for a second, there are 10 teams, If an incident happens involving 4 or 5 of them, they're all going to be on the radio to Masi bitching and moaning and trying to convince him for a decision in their drivers favour. It's not easy, give him a team! That brings me onto the point that I've mentioned 100 times already, the stewards should not be a bunch of so and so's that they swap in and out from race to race, get a team of stewards, that they have from race 1 through to race 23 and that way the penalties are consistent and teams know for sure what they can and can't do. Because I'm not blaming drivers for forcing their competition wide anymore, not if it means there aren't any penalties.
What do you guys think? Does the new audio mean that's it for Masi? or will the FIA and Formula 1 do the right thing and give him some support? Let me know on the socials, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.