Michael Masi has shown "fantastic resilience" to come through the past few months and stay in good spirits, according to a former colleague and close personal friend of the Australian.
Masi, Formula 1's Race Director for the past three years, has lost his job as the sport's top race official following the well-documented events of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Masi, like Lewis Hamilton, has been publicly silent ever since that race, which included opting against granting his usual media opportunities afterwards. For the past two months, Masi has diligently continued with his usual FIA duties as the governing body carried out an intensive investigation into the events of the race.
With public outcry surrounding the race failing to subside, Masi has had to bear the brunt of the anger. Social media trends saw hashtags such as #MasiOut trending, with FIA, Mercedes and Red Bull posts swamped by fans calling for the axing of the Race Director.
Praise for Masi's "fantastic" resilience since Abu Dhabi
It has been a "tortuous" few months for Masi to endure, according to Motorsport Australia CEO Eugene Arocca.
"He's a personal friend. I've known him as long as I've been involved in motorsport, which goes back 10 years, and we've become good buddies," Arocca told Speedcafe.com.
"It's personally disappointing and devastating for me to see what has occurred. I can't speak on his behalf, but I would say that one of the more difficult elements of all this, let's call it this incident, happened late last year, some three months ago now, and to a large degree it's been a process that hasn't leant itself to really being in a good frame of mind.
"It's been a tortuous two or three months of discussion, debate, criticism, public airing of view. You have to have a hide that's pretty thick to be able to withstand all that and come out the other end feeling OK."
Revealing that he had exchanged text messages with Masi after the FIA announcement, Arocca praised his compatriot's resilience: "Based on the fact that he responded this morning, and he was obviously pretty flat, he's a man who's got fantastic resilience."
"It's really easy to be a critic in the sidelines"
Arocca argued that Masi showed himself to be a "strong leader" with his decision-making in a scenario that could have left others "completely paralysed" – asking those who criticise from a distance to think twice.
"Unlike many others, he's actually been administering, involved in managing motorsport for many, many years," said Arocca.
"He's got an extensive background and history. He's very insightful, intelligent, and able to make decisions in the heat of a moment. That's something that people may have lost in some of the debate.
"It's really easy to be a critic on the sidelines thinking what he went through when he was making those decisions.
"There would be other people that would be completely paralysed in exactly the same circumstances. He made the call. That is the first character trait of a strong leader."
Motorsport Australia would welcome back Masi's "elite talent"
Arocca went on to reveal that Motorsport Australia, with which Masi worked before being chosen by predecessor Charlie Whiting for mentorship to become F1 Race Director, would welcome back their former employee with open arms.
"We would love to tap into his knowledge at any level. He's just an elite talent that would be wasted to the sport if he's not used in some capacity, and so we'll keep an open mind," added Arocca.
"At the moment, we're obviously concentrating on the year ahead, and when he's decided what he wants to do, no doubt amongst many others, he'll be contacted by not only us but by others.
"He's officiated for three years in one of the most public, high-pressure sporting events with an element of danger in the world, and he's done it during a pandemic with significant levels of travel, stress, other duties, and in my view that stands well on his resume for any employer anywhere in the world."
As it stands, Ben Sulayem has outlined that Masi is set for another internal role within the FIA for the 2022 season.
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