Michael Masi has made an impassioned plea to fans to show respect to motor sports officials on social media after again declaring himself the victim of horrendous online trolling.
Masi received death threats in the wake of the controversial finish to the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with his decision as F1 race director to re-order the field after a safety car resulted in Max Verstappen denying Lewis Hamilton a record-breaking eighth title.
The Australian was ultimately made the fall guy for the procedural failures, with the FIA standing him down as it revamped the F1 race director role.
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On the back of his social media vilification, Masi has stated that what he was subjected to took “a personal toll”.
“It has its impacts,” he said.
“I was extremely fortunate in that behind the scenes, I had the support of some amazing people, without whom I couldn't have got through it.”
Masi forced to ‘compartmentalise'
Masi has since spent a year at home where he has taken on a new role as independent chair of the rule-recommending Supercars Commission.
The 44-year-old was in attendance at the weekend's season-opening event, the Thrifty Newcastle 500.
Speaking at length on the abuse he received, Masi said: “I had multiple death threats.
“At the time, you sort of just brushed them off. I didn't worry about it, but there were a few death threats.
“There were also threats upon family members of mine – just some really, really weird stuff, let's just say, that came out of it.
“But I just ignored a lot of it. I had to compartmentalise in my head about different bits and pieces as things went on.”
Masi – ‘abuse should not be tolerated'
Masi is now clearly fitter and happier after almost a year back home where he was quickly picked up to utilise his international experience as an administrator.
Masi's experience with online vitriol has urged him to plea for passionate fans to be moderate in their social media comments.
“I don't care who it is, no one should be [vilified],” Masi declared. “Regardless if they're my worst enemy or not, it's not something that should be condoned.
“It's not acceptable. Chaz [Mostert] been very vocal about the no social hate element. Everyone in this sport is extremely passionate about the teams that they follow, the drivers that they follow or the vehicle brands that they follow.
“And embracing passion is one thing, but threatening people in any way, shape or form, be they officials, drivers or teams, is just not on.
“It should not be tolerated in any way, shape or form. Yes, let's encourage rivalries and so forth, but don't go below the belt, to use the vernacular.”
Silence remains over FIA exit
The popular Australian official steered F1 racing through the COVID-disrupted 2020 and 2021 seasons, applying a more flexible approach to in-race disputes.
It is understood Masi remains “in discussion” with the FIA over the terms of his departure.
If so, this would explain why he still will not – or cannot – discuss what happened in race control that led to his decision-making and the rancorous finish to the race that cost him his job.
One day, Masi will reveal the pressures and reasons he made his fateful call, in the best Aussie tradition, to ‘play on'.
His decision resulted in Verstappen snatching the title from Hamilton on the very last lap amid widespread fan dissent.
Masi has been back home in Sydney for almost a year, keeping a low public profile as he has re-integrated into the local scene.