Daniel Ricciardo has become the latest driver to voice their support for F1 Race Director Michael Masi amid continued speculation over his future.
Masi came under fire for how his handling of the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi impacted on the final result of the Drivers' Championship. The FIA have since launched an investigation into the events of the race, with the report from that due for publishing on 18 March.
Following the race, some figures in the sport, including commentator Martin Brundle, have questioned whether Masi will remain in his role. Ricciardo, though, has backed the Race Director to stay.
"I don't like speaking on behalf of people, but ultimately if Michael wants to stay, then he should stay," Ricciardo told media including RacingNews365.com at McLaren's launch of their 2022 car.
"I don't think one event should be the picture of everything, if you know what I mean."
Ricciardo had "front-row seat" to events in Abu Dhabi
Ricciardo found himself at the heart of the action when the controversy unfolded in Abu Dhabi, given that he was on track just behind the battling Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton on the last lap.
Since then, the Australian says he has frequently been asked for his take on what happened.
"I went home obviously for Christmas and that, and inevitably friends, family were like, 'Woah, that last race – what did you think?' So it was certainly mixed," he explained.
"For sure I would say a little bit more were like, 'I'm not sure how I felt about that', but then others were like, 'Well, that was pretty entertaining – last lap, title gets decided.'
"I had the front row seat – for some reason, they left me right behind them. So I was like, 'Wow, is this really happening? This is nuts'.
"I watched it on TV in 2008, with [Felipe] Massa and Lewis [where the title was decided on the last lap of the season finale], and I was like, 'That'll never happen again’. Obviously, it did.
"I think it was a moment in time, for sure, and not everyone is going to appreciate that moment in time. But I think lovers of the sport are still going to be lovers of the sport and probably if anything, curious to see what happens in 2022."
"Too much pressure" on race direction and stewards
With several decisions made by race direction and the stewards coming under the spotlight in the 2021 season, Ricciardo believes that there is too much pressure on them.
"I think the one thing was I feel there is too much pressure on them, to be honest," the eight-time race winner said.
"I think the sport in general has a lot more exposure now, which is great in some elements but it also puts others under pressure who probably aren't asking for that pressure or used to it.
"It's hard to look back in time and think when the race director or stewards were so much in the media. It's kind of quite unique and unknown territory.
"I think that's where there was a ripple in the situation and I think that highlighted some of the stuff maybe too much and it then put pressure on the next situation more."
"Interference" has made things "messy"
F1's Managing Director Ross Brawn has suggested that the teams will no longer be able to directly contact Masi and race control in future, and Ricciardo admits that he thinks there has been too much "interference" at times.
"It already felt intense and I feel everyone should have probably taken a step back. We are obviously all assigned roles and that person is there for a reason – just let them do it," the McLaren driver added.
"At times there was a lot of interference and I think that made it more messy than it should have been.
"So less interference in general and let people get on with it, probably with less pressure, and then see what the outcome is."
Ricciardo is the latest driver to give his backing to Masi, with Lando Norris having recently voiced his support, which followed on from Sebastian Vettel stating that Masi has done a "good job".
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