The FIA have replaced Michael Masi as their F1 Race Director for the 2022 season, with President Mohammed Ben Sulayem confirming changes have been made at the top level of the sport's race governance.
Following weeks and months of in-depth internal investigations over the dramatic and controversial events of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix title decider, Masi has ultimately lost his role as Race Director.
Masi's decision-making and control of the Safety Car in the closing laps of the race had a direct impact on the outcome of the 2021 Drivers' Championship, with Lewis Hamilton losing out to Max Verstappen when the action resumed for a single lap.
Mercedes protested the race results on two grounds, both of which were thrown out by the stewards, although the team initially indicated they would appeal. The appeal was dropped as the FIA confirmed that a full analysis and investigation into the race, as well as their own internal governance, would be carried out.
The full report of this investigation is due to be published over the weekend of the 2022 F1 season opener in Bahrain.
Masi out as F1's Race Director
Following a recent meeting of the F1 Commission, including all the F1 team bosses ahead of the new season, Ben Sulayem has outlined the first steps being taken – with Masi replaced in his role as Race Director.
"I would like to inform you that a new race management team will be put in place, starting in Barcelona for the test session," Ben Sulayem outlined in a special video address on the FIA's social channels.
"Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will act, alternatively, as Race Director, assisted by Herbie Blash as permanent Senior Advisor.
"Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three years as Formula 1 Race Director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA.
"I presented this complete plan to the members of the World Motor Sport Council and the Senate who gave their full support."
Further changes as a result of Abu Dhabi
Ben Sulayem also outlined other changes that will be introduced, including a secondary Virtual Race Control Room using technological tools.
"To assist the Race Director in the decision-making process, a Virtual Race Control Room will be created," he explained.
"Like the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in football, it will be positioned in one of the FIA offices as a backup outside the circuit.
"In real-time connection with the FIA F1 Race Director, it will help to apply the sporting regulations using the most modern technological tools."
Another change, which F1 Managing Director Ross Brawn confirmed would happen ahead of 2022, has also been pushed through.
F1 team bosses will no longer be able to communicate directly with Race Control, although a procedure will be put in place to allow for communications between the teams and Race Control.
"Direct radio communications during the race, currently broadcast live by all TVs, will be removed in order to protect the Race Director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully," Ben Sulayem said.
"It will be still possible to ask questions to the Race Director, according to a well-defined and non-intrusive process.
"Unlapping procedures behind the Safety Car will be reassessed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the next F1 Commission prior to the start of the season."
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