Max Verstappen blasts 'unfair' and 'incredible' decision to replace Michael Masi as F1 race director
"Very unfair". "Unacceptable". "Not the right decision". Max Verstappen voices his fury as he speaks about F1 race director Michael Masi being replaced following the FIA's inquiry into last year's Abu Dhabi GP decider
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 24/02/22 4:33pm
Max Verstappen has blasted the decision to drop Michael Masi as F1 race director, calling it "very unfair" and insisting the Australian was "thrown under the bus" by the FIA after the controversial Abu Dhabi GP finale.
Following an inquiry into last year's title decider, which Verstappen won ahead of Lewis Hamilton after heavily-scrutinised decisions from Masi in the closing stages, the FIA revealed an officiating restructure earlier this month, with Masi replaced by two race directors who will rotate through the season.
Speaking publicly for the first time since that announcement, Verstappen told the media at pre-season testing: "For me it's very unfair what happened to Michael because he's really been thrown under the bus."
He added to Sky Sports News' Craig Slater:" I think for Michael it's very harsh for him because it feels like he's just been put into the ground and I don't think it's fair.
"To sack him for me, is not the right decision."
Explaining his view, Verstappen questioned the fact F1 and the FIA, the sport's governing body, had allowed team personnel - such as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and Red Bull's Christian Horner - to communicate with the race director during the race.
"Of course people talk a lot about what happened in Abu Dhabi, but can you imagine a referee in whatever sport has a coach, or equivalent, screaming in his ear all the time?" said Verstappen.
"'Yellow card, red card, no decision, no foul!'. It's impossible to make a decision.
"I think in the first place that F1 already allowed that, [that] team members can speak to him while making decisions, is very wrong because it needed to be Michael making the decisions on his own, without having people screaming in his ear."
Verstappen continued: "[The fact] the people who did sack him allowed that in the first place, for me is unacceptable.
"Now they sacked him and I find that really incredible. I feel really sorry for Michael because I feel he was a really capable and good race director."
The drivers sitting next to Verstappen in the press conference - including Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc - also voiced their support for Masi.
Masi, who is now set for a safety role within the FIA, has been replaced by Niels Wittich, former DTM race director, and Eduardo Freitas, WEC race director, with the pair to act alternatively as F1 race director.
"I have nothing against the new race directors because I think they're also very capable and good race directors, but for Michael I felt really sad and I sent him a text as well," said Verstappen. "Not the right decision."
Masi had been race director since Charlie Whiting's passing in 2019.
"I think everyone can use a bit more help and make better decisions, or just have a bit more experience around," stated Verstappen. "I have a whole team around me that try to make me a better driver and maybe he needed a bit more help as well.
"After Charlie died it's very tough 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?
"To immediately sack 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 F1 race director."