News that Michael Masi has been moved aside from the role of Formula 1 race director has been met with a mixture of anger, relief, and bemusement from fans.
In response to that news, and a column by resident F1 expert Mat Coch, Speedcafe.com readers have expressed their opinion on the matter, with some genuinely insightful comments.
We've picked out some of the best and, for what it's worth, the views here are not necessarily those of this publication!
From what I recall over the past few years, Mr. Masi was given an hour or so notice that he would be the top man in F1 race control after his friend and mentor passed away in Melbourne. He continued in the role on a round to round basis for a year without confirmation of a full-time tenure. He then managed the role plus the additional stress of taking the circus through the pandemic for another 2 years.
I have nothing but increased respect for Mr. Masi and what he has done over his time as the Race Director. I hope that he accepts another role within the FiA or stays in the sport in another way.
He made catastrophic decisions in Abu Dhabi allowing a certain number of cars to unlap themselves (not all unlapped cars) and to restart the race immediately after that.
On either count, those are colossal failures for a senior official to make – made worse by the implications those decisions had on the World Championship result. And especially because he wasn't a rookie director – he'd been on the scene for a number of years as deputy and then full race director.
No option but to remove him from that type of frontline, high-pressure role.
Look, the whole thing was wrong. That wasn't purely Michael's doing.
The fact that teams were allowed to hammer him with demands mid-race was wrong.
The fact that rules haven't been enforced consistently was wrong.
Yes, Michael played a part in it unfolding ‘wrong'.
But he wasn't the ONLY reason it went pear-shaped.
A bit of a scapegoat, a bit of his own fault. The FIA have to be seen to repair the breakdown in consistency and getting rid of the guy at the top is a clean way to do it.
The changes suggested by Mohammed Ben Sulayem are logical ones – whichever way the decision went, someone was going to be upset and the pressure put upon Masi by having his conversations with the team broadcast meant he was roast duck no matter what he decided. I think Masi did a terrific job while he was Race Director and to say otherwise would be tragic.
I thought he did the right thing under the circumstances.
God help the next race director or group of directors the next time a decision doesn't go Mercedes way.
The FIA have appeased them for now but they haven't solved the problem of one team controlling an entire organisation.
It'll be an interesting season, especially if other teams are a quick as Mercedes' and Red Bull this year.
The rule book should have been tighter and clearer, if it's open to interpretation then you can't complain when's it's interpreted in a way that you don't like. It was a 50-50 call and both options were within the rules and he had minutes to decide, they best be giving him a good payout because this should be going to court.
I agree Michael Masi seems a sincere nice fellow but did feel there were times last year when he looked out of his depth. Posters here seem to ignore his bizarre performance in Saudi Arabia where there was a strange negotiation with Red Bull on the applicable penalty; the penalty was not properly communicated to the Mercedes team resulting in an unnecessary collision; the race was restarted when there was obviously debris on the track. Changing safety car conventions on the last lap of the closest season in history was surely the straw breaking the camels back. Max is a totally worthy champion but objectively it is hard to see how Masi could keep that role.
I have commented elsewhere here about this whole situation. But a few things have since become evident.
Firstly, when a driver cuts a corner, particularly at a chicane, and rejoins the field in the same position he is not penalised and loses nothing – yet he should not have done so in the first place and get off scot free when he was going too fast or on the wrong line to take the corner legally.
Secondly, why should lapped cars ( a select few, or all of them) be waved through under safety car conditions? Such cars were a lap down and being beaten fairly and squarely by better cars or teams, so why should they be given the opportunity to unlap themselves and get to the tail end of the field on the same lap?
Both rules need addressing – it is fake racing and sucks.
“The announcement comes following a meeting of the F1 Commission on Monday at which teams were presented with, and unanimously voted in favour of, a number of changes.”
Where are Red Bull, Ferrari, speaking out about the total injustice in removing Masi. On some level, the know this had to happen. The teams have been updated on the investigation and this has most likely influenced their decisions.
Masi has been moved, not fired. They are giving him a new job and I think for a number of reasons. The paddock like him as a person, the report highlights incompetence (no conspiracy, just a mistakes under pressure) and the FIA and the paddock realise they have had a role in this backlash directed at him.
It more way more nuanced than the simplistic accusations that “meRCdEs aND LewIS RUn f1!!!”. If that were the case, Lewis would have been named WC for 2021 today.
In the last 3 years, many of Masi's decisions have been controversial. He brought in the catch phrase “Let them race”, as fewer penalties would be awarded. I believe this approach was supported by the owners of F1, but not always supported by traditionalists and the FIA. IMO the enforcement of the sporting code needs a lot of changes to restore the prestige of F1 as a top-level sporting championship. Changing the race director who was at the centre of far too many controversies is a good first step. I hope they will implement sufficient changes so the rules will be enforced in a consistent and effective way.
While I personally like Michael Masi, I too questioned some judgements, ESPECIALLY the last race. I dont blame Michael though, I blame the system.
Allowing him to be hounded and bullied like he was, was really bad. Who could make a logical, legally based decision under those circumstances?
Anyway, I think the restructure sounds positive. Hopefully reality is too.
I think this isn't about serving justice or scape goating. A scape goat is when you blame someone for something they're not responsible for. Masi had full responsibility and control over the decision making, Full command and final-say about overt dubious procedures that were skilfully applied to gift the championship to Max and deny Hamiltons historic 8th title.
Mercedes weren't seeking ‘justice' because that's impossible. They're justifiably insuring Masi doesn't have another chance to overtly or covertly deny Hamiltons 8th title a second time. Been saying for months if Masi stays Lewis should retire, and he probably would have.
He made a fundamental error with his actions in Abu Dhabi – making up the application of rules on the spot is a cardinal sin for an adjudicator.
Mercedes knew this was the outcome, otherwise they wouldn't have decided not to progress an appeal. FIA would have lost that case and put the whole race result in doubt.
This is a very weak and cowardly decision by the FIA, making one capable person effectively the scapegoat for a system that clearly needed to be upgraded (as it now has been).
Not a pretty chapter in the sport's history and I hope that Masi finds something that he can enjoy without all the unjustified assassination work of the last few months.