"Racist, abusive, vile, they called me every name under the sun," former race director Michael Masi was threatened after he changed the safety car re-start procedure, denying Lewis Hamilton a record eighth F1 title at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Sunday 31 July 2022 13:55, UK
Former race director Michael Masi received death threats after his controversial decision allowed Max Verstappen to claim the Formula One title.
The Australian changed the safety car re-start procedure at the end of the December's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a move that handed the crown to Red Bull's Verstappen, denying Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton a record eighth title in the process.
"There were some dark days," Masi told News Corp on Sunday. "And absolutely, I felt like I was the most hated man in the world. I got death threats. People saying, they were going to come after me and my family."
Masi's decision to allow lapped cars between leader Hamilton and Verstappen to move around the Mercedes driver and the safety car set up the Dutchman to pass the reigning champion on the final lap and claim the title.
A subsequent report into the Abu Dhabi race in March found that Masi had made a "human error" but acted in "good faith".
Masi, who left governing body the FIA in March, was the subject of a torrent of abuse on social media.
"They were shocking," Masi said of messages he received on Facebook. "Racist, abusive, vile, they called me every name under the sun.
"And they kept on coming. Not just on my Facebook but also on my LinkedIn, which is supposed to be a professional platform for business. It was the same type of abuse."
The 44-year-old has since returned to Australia and did not seek professional help in the aftermath of the incident.
"I didn't want to talk to anyone," he said.
"Not even family and friends. I only talked to my close family but very briefly.
"It did have a physical impact, but it was more mental. I just wanted to be in a bubble. I had no desire to talk to them. I just wanted to be alone, which was very challenging.
"The whole experience has made me a much stronger person."
Formula 1 launched the 'Drive It Out' campaign on Saturday, which is specifically aimed at stopping online abuse in the sport, as well as abuse at venues.
When asked on Sunday if anything would be done specifically to support Masi, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali insisted steps will be taken.
"We did it, we are doing, and of course there is no space for idiots," he told Sky Sports F1.
"We don't have to give any kind of room, because the sport can show that is a competition. In competition, you can do good, you can do well, but you need to be respectful every time."