Damon Hill has come forward in support of former FIA Race Director Michael Masi, in the aftermath of the Australian being ousted from his role.
Masi played a key role in the contentious outcome of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix title decider, triggering an FIA review into the events of the race.
Recently, the FIA confirmed that Masi would be moved aside from the role he held for three seasons, with Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich stepping up to share the Race Director role in 2022.
Masi's dismissal from the lead of the FIA's race governance trackside team has resulted in several drivers voicing their support for him, including a particularly strong criticism of the decision from Max Verstappen.
Hill, the 1996 F1 World Champion, has also lent a supportive voice to Masi as he spoke on the Beyond the Grid podcast.
"Was he necessarily sacrificed?" Hill questioned, when asked for his opinion on Masi's dismissal.
"I feel sorry for the guy. We've had drivers come out and say that he did a good job under difficult circumstances.
"I personally think that the situation and the structure of his job and the way he was expected to operate was the problem."
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Hill: Controversial to keep Masi as Race Director
With Masi's decision to withdraw the Safety Car at the end of the penultimate lap of the race resulting in the title swinging away from Lewis Hamilton and towards Verstappen, the Race Director appeared to be in contravention of a Sporting Regulation that stated, following the instruction to lapped cars to unlap themselves, the Safety Car should have withdrawn a lap later.
This would have had the effect of the race not restarting, meaning a Hamilton title victory. While Masi's decision appeared to fly in the face of the regulation, another regulation outlining that the Race Director has full control of the Safety Car appeared to supersede it.
Hill went on to say that he felt the tension and pressure of the situation allowed the unusual events to unfold, and that a tightening up of the rule book may have been sufficient to address the controversy.
"I'm not saying that it was right what happened, but I think that we
could see clearly during the season, there was confusion being thrown
into decision-making, and pressure being thrown in by some of the team
bosses," Hill said.
"Of course, [there was also] the pressure of being on TV and those conversations being broadcast.
"So if they fix that, I'm not sure they needed to get rid of Michael. But you can also say that, because of his role in the matter, it would have been controversial to keep him on. So it was not a happy ending to last year, quite honestly, from lots of different perspectives."
As for whether the outcome of the Grand Prix was fair, as Verstappen won a race that Hamilton had dominated up until the Safety Car, Hill said that it would be "debated forever".
"Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton put on a fantastic show for us last year, and everyone else raced really hard," he said.
"We had some great racing. It's a shame that it was muddled at the end."
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