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Formula One Race Director Michael Masi Removed

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Formula One race director Michael Masi was sacked on Thursday over the controversial decision that denied Lewis Hamilton a near-certain eighth world championship title in Abu Dhabi.

Although Masi’s dismissal can be taken as a rare acknowledgment by the FIA that they were culpable for the last-lap incident that shook the sporting world two months ago, Mercedes will not seek to get the result overturned.

The FIA has dismissed Michael Masi as Formula One’s race director after his role in the controversial finale to last season’s championship-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The sport’s governing body is to replace Masi with two new personnel, Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, and has introduced a series of new structures, including a standalone race control unit to function similarly to VAR in football.

The FIA has not, however, published the report of its investigation into what happened in Abu Dhabi and Masi’s level of culpability in making decisions that decided the world championship in Max Verstappen’s favour, ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

The newly appointed FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, announced on Thursday that Masi would not be sacked from the sport’s governing body but offered another post. The Australian took over as race director after the death of Charlie Whiting in 2019. He has been liked and respected in the paddock but events have clearly taken their toll; at a meeting of the F1 commission on Monday he was described by observers as a shadow of his former self.

The Portuguese Freitas, who is a widely respected race director for the world endurance championship, and Wittich, the race director of the DTM, the German touring car championship, will alternate in their new role. The German had already been set to join as assistant to Masi this year. The division of the role does raise questions over the likely consistency of decision making.

They will be assisted by the return of Herbie Blash. Blash, who is 73, has been involved in the sport since the late 1960s and was an assistant to Whiting for more than 20 years. With huge experience and being greatly respected in the paddock, he will take on a role of permanent adviser that will go a long way to easing the teams’ apprehension about the new system.

Masi’s intervention in Abu Dhabi, improvising with the rules around the safety car and the way cars could unlap themselves, proved decisive in the title fight between Hamilton and Verstappen. Ultimately it allowed Red Bull’s Verstappen, on fresh tyres, the chance to attack and pass Hamilton on the final lap, securing the championship in the process.

A spokesman for Hamilton’s team confirmed: ‘No, we accepted and acknowledged the championship result in our statement on December 16. Since then, the FIA have conducted their own analysis in consultation with teams and drivers (including us) and reached their own conclusions, which they have presented today.’

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