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Red Bull Racing

Red Bull view Masi as 'more than capable' of filling Whiting's shoes

With beleaguered F1 Race Director Michael Masi under increasing pressure to leave his role, Red Bull's Jonathan Wheatley has come to the Australian's defence.

Masi FIA Abu Dhabi
To news overview © RN365/Michael Potts

Red Bull Sporting Director Jonathan Wheatley says F1 Race Director Michael Masi is more than capable of filling the shoes of long-time predecessor Charlie Whiting, amid increasing calls for Masi to stand down following his controversial handling of last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Masi was widely criticised for his actions in the closing stages of that race, when he ended a late Safety Car period with one lap to go, and allowed five lapped cars sitting between leader Lewis Hamilton and second-placed Max Verstappen to unlap themselves.

With no backmarkers in his way, Verstappen passed Hamilton on the final lap to win the race and snatch the 2021 title away from his rival.

Mercedes were particularly aggrieved at Masi's handling of the situation, and only backed down from a threat to appeal the outcome after the FIA confirmed it would establish a commission to investigate the events of Abu Dhabi.

Masi had been unexpectedly promoted to F1 Race Director when incumbent Whiting suddenly passed away on the eve of the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, and Wheatley noted the enormity of taking on a role that his friend Whiting had occupied for 22 years.

"Charlie died in 2019, and I think the FIA were slow to realise just what a big pair of shoes that would be to fill," Wheatley said during an interview on The Jack Threlfall Show.

"I think Michael, with the right support, is more than capable of doing that. He's a really nice guy with no edge to him at all, and he listens and tries to do the very best that he can."

Should radio messages to and from race control be broadcast?

Masi's appointment as Race Director has coincided with increased scrutiny of the role, with 2021 seeing FOM broadcast direct radio messages between Race Director and teams for the first time.

This has meant millions of television viewers are now party to team representatives arguing with Masi over perceived inconsistencies in the application of rules, and Wheatley feels this channel of communication should not have been made public.

"I personally think it was a mistake to broadcast [radio messages between teams and Masi]," said Wheatley.

"Teams have supported Michael and Michael's helped us. We've worked together in a collaborative fashion, and that dies a death when it's broadcast.

"There were situations where I got bit frustrated and said things I shouldn't have said."

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