Jacques Villeneuve has defended FIA Race Director Michael Masi's decision-making at the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Masi made the call to let five of the eight lapped cars unlap themselves on the penultimate lap of the race, before calling in the Safety Car to allow green flag racing to the finish.
It was on this lap that the championship swung away from Lewis Hamilton, who had dominated the race, and towards Max Verstappen as the Dutch driver had pitted for fresh tyres when the Safety Car was called out.
Masi's decisions have prompted an FIA review of the race and its procedures, with a full report due for release on 18 March, just ahead of the 2022 season-opener in Bahrain.
A statement from the FIA suggested that Masi's position could be in danger, as it read: "FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has asked Secretary General Sport and recently appointed Single-Seater Director Peter Bayer for proposals to review and optimise the organisation of the FIA F1 structure for the 2022 season."
"Masi shouldn't be thrown out"
Jacques Villeneuve has stepped forward to defend Masi's decisions, though, saying that the Race Director was working under extreme pressure in the closing stages of the race.
"Michael Masi should not be thrown out," 1997 World Champion Villeneuve told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport.
"He was working under high pressure from two team bosses, especially from [Toto] Wolff, who kept shouting in Masi's ear in the last five laps.
"Masi ended up continuing to do everything right after that Safety Car phase.
"The only thing he might have done differently was to let the lapped drivers make up their lost ground a lap earlier, but it was good to let the race resume.
"It seems that there should be clear rules at the moment or perhaps permanent race stewards. The alternative is to allow everything and let the drivers beat each other after accidents, as happens in America!"
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