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Barcelona pre-season test 2022

Verstappen: Masi 'thrown under the bus' after Abu Dhabi

Max Verstappen has strongly voiced his support for Michael Masi, describing the FIA's decision to remove him from the Race Director role as "unacceptable".

Verstappen Barcelona
Article
To news overview © RN365/Michael Potts

Max Verstappen has lashed out at the decision made by the FIA to remove former Race Director Michael Masi from his position.

Masi was ousted from his role as the FIA addressed the fallout from the contentious, and well-documented, events of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Masi's new position within the FIA is yet to be publically defined, but the role of Race Director will be held by two new appointees in 2022. Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich will share the job that Masi held down between 2019 and the end of 2021.

However, Verstappen, who won the 2021 title in the aftermath of Masi's decision-making in Abu Dhabi, strongly condemned the decision taken by the FIA to remove Masi from the role.

"I think it's not correct. Everyone always tries to do the best job and everyone can always use help," Verstappen told media, including RacingNews365.com, when asked for his thoughts on the FIA changes.

"As drivers also, we have the whole team behind us to prove ourselves but, for me, it's very unfair what happened to Michael, because he's really been thrown under the bus.

"People talk a lot about what was decided in Abu Dhabi, but can you imagine a referee, in whatever sport, having the coach equivalent screaming in his ear all the time? That's a yellow card, red card, no decision, no foul – it's impossible to make a decision.

"So, I think, in the first place that F1 allowed that team members could talk to him while making decisions is very wrong."

Verstappen: Masi needed more help around him

Verstappen went on to say that Masi simply needed more time and experience to establish himself as a similar authority to the late Charlie Whiting. Masi's predecessor and mentor passed away suddenly on the eve of the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, with Masi quickly promoted to take over the role.

The Dutch driver feels the decision taken by the FIA was "unacceptable", given that the governing body put him in such a tough situation in the first place.

"It needed to be Michael making decisions on his own, without any people screaming in his ear," he said.

"[The fact that] the people who sacked him allowed that in the first place, for me, is unacceptable. I find that really incredible, so I feel really sorry for Michael, because I think he was a very capable and good Race Director.

"I have nothing against the new Race Directors, because I think they're also very capable and very good. But, personally, for Michael, I felt really sad and I sent him a text as well. [It's] not the right decision. Especially, I think, if he [had] someone next to him.

"After Charlie died, it's very hard to take over from someone like him – he had so much experience from the previous years and also Charlie had help around him. Maybe Michael just needed a little bit more. Everyone needs experience."

Comparing the situation to that of a racing driver, Verstappen pointed out that he himself has only improved since his rookie years – a luxury that wasn't offered to Masi.

"I came into this sport, my first year, I look back at it now, I was a complete rookie," he said.

"Right now, I am so much further than what I was back then, and I think it would have been the same for Michael. Immediately sacking him, for me, is not the right decision, but I wish him all the best with whatever comes next and I hope it is better than being an F1 Race Director."

Also interesting:

With F1 pre-season testing getting underway in Barcelona this week, our journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour and Thomas Maher look ahead to what to expect.

F1 2022 Barcelona pre-season test RN365 News dossier

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