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F1 Race Director Michael Masi Could Play Crucial Role in Title Finale

  • FIA race director Michael Masi could have a huge role to play in the outcome of the F1 championship.
  • In the increasingly fractious war between Mercedes and Red Bull, Masi is there to enforce F1’s rules.
  • Both Red Bull and Mercedes have criticized Masi in recent days, claiming he has been unfair to them.

Besides Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, perhaps the man with the most potential to impact the destination of the 2021 Formula One world title is Michael Masi.

As F1’s race director, Masi controls the race, deciding on issues such as when red flags are brought out, when the safety car is deployed, and instructing lapped cars to be overtaken.

While he cannot hand out penalties — that role is reserved for the stewards — he is there to enforce FIA rules when needed.

Being the referee in a sport as technical and competitive as Formula One is never easy, but Masi’s job is made all the more difficult in the current fraught climate where Red Bull and Mercedes are looking for any possible advantage in the title race.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

Tempers flared when Hamilton claimed Verstappen brake tested him which caused a crash.

Lars Baron/Getty Images

Pressure is rising within Red Bull and Mercedes so perhaps it is no surprise that Masi, as a neutral party, has been on the receiving end of some harsh criticism.

Following the intense Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in which Verstappen was handed two separate time penalties, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko said treatment of the Dutch driver is harsh compared to that of Hamilton.

The Telegraph reports that Marko described the decisions of Masi during the race as “very one-sided.”

On Sunday, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the sport missed Masi’s predecessor, Charlie Whiting, who died unexpectedly in 2019.

“I’ve said it for too long we’re over-regulated,” Horner said, as reported by ESPN.

“It feels like there are too many rules.

“It felt like today that the sport missed Charlie Whiting. I am sorry to say but the experience he had. .. it’s obviously frustrating but it’s difficult for Michael [Masi] and the stewards, particularly at this type of venue and this type of circuit with the amount of debris and the types of corners there are but it’s the same for everybody.”

Christian Horner on the pitwall

Horner said the sport missed Masi’s predecessor.

Giuseppe Cacace – Pool/Getty Images

Horner took particular issue with what he perceived as bargaining between his team and Masi over Verstappen’s grid spot following a red flag restart, going on to claim it was like a Saudi Arabian market.

“It’s a bit like being down the souq, which was unusual. I’ve not come across that previously.

“Obviously, we voiced our own argument, I am sure Mercedes voiced theirs. It was just very frustrating.

“We didn’t feel that the penalty, the five-second penalty, was really warranted and certainly felt Lewis just drove up the back of Max’s car.”

It is not only Red Bull who are unhappy. Mercedes too have voiced their displeasure with the way the race was run in Jeddah.

After Sunday’s race, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff implored the stewards to ensure the final race was clean.

“We’re biased, obviously from our side there was frustration [after the first red flag]. I need to reserve judgment, see the race again tomorrow,” he told Sky Sports F1.

“It’s really [Verstappen’s] driving that needs to be assessed and looked at. It’s hard, really hard, maybe over-the-line hard.

“We just want a clean championship. If it’s Max [who wins], I’ll make peace with that. But we just want it to be [fair].”

Formula One’s hectic season comes to a conclusion in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. With Hamilton and Verstappen level on points, whoever finishes ahead of the other will be crowned world champion.

If Hamilton wins he will hold a record eight individual titles, while Verstappen will become the fourth youngest champion in the sport’s history, behind Hamilton, Red Bull’s last world champion Sebastian Vettel, and Spaniard Fernando Alonso.

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