Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Michael Masi was ‘responsible’ for F1 who disrespected drivers

“He was just immune to comment and even today he didn’t properly reflect that he had done anything wrong,” says Toto Wolff criticizing former F1 race director Michael Masi ; Tuesday marks four months since Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi

Last update: 04/12/22 06:00

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Michael Masi disrespected F1 drivers

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has accused former Formula 1 race director Michael Masi of “disrespecting” drivers by acting as if he had always known better.

On Tuesday, it will be four months since Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton for the title in last season’s controversial World Championship decision in Abu Dhabi. But Masi’s handling of the case remains a sensitive subject for Wolff.

Masi was replaced by the FIA ​​for his role in the 2021 finale, with new race directors Niels Wittich and Edoardo Freitas replacing the Aussie on a split basis and already marking their authority on the grid with a series of regulatory crackdowns.

A review of the final stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was critical of how Masi handled the process of letting only five spun cars – the drivers between Hamilton and Verstappen – overtake before bringing in the safety car for the last lap, allowing the Red Bull driver to take the lead and win his first world championship.

Experience the incredible conclusion of the Abu Dhabi GP in the cars of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton and listen to team radios including Hamilton saying the race was

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Experience the incredible conclusion of the Abu Dhabi GP in the cars of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton and listen to team radios, including Hamilton saying the race was “manipulated”.

Experience the incredible conclusion of the Abu Dhabi GP in the cars of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton and listen to team radios, including Hamilton saying the race was “manipulated”.

Wolff’s mind goes back to the days leading up to the most controversial final in F1 history.

“It’s quite interesting because I had lunch with him [Masi] on the Wednesday before the race, and I said to him, ‘I really want to tell you, without condescending to you, that you have to accept the criticism and evolve from there. Lewis does it every day, but you’re a guy who always seems to know better,'” he told the PA news agency.

“It wasn’t about influencing him, but really about giving my honest opinion that he shouldn’t block outside opinion as simply being wrong.

“You hear from the pilots and how the pilot briefings were conducted [by Masi] and some of the guys said it was almost disrespectful the way he treated some of them.

Max Verstappen doesn't think Michael Masi should have been sacked as race director following his controversial handling of last season's title decider in Abu Dhabi.

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Max Verstappen doesn’t think Michael Masi should have been sacked as race director following his controversial handling of last season’s title decider in Abu Dhabi.

Max Verstappen doesn’t think Michael Masi should have been sacked as race director following his controversial handling of last season’s title decider in Abu Dhabi.

“He was just immune to comment and even today he didn’t properly reflect that he had done anything wrong.

“He was a liability for the sport because everyone was talking about Abu Dhabi and the race director, and the race director shouldn’t be someone people talk about, but someone who does the job and ensures that the race is conducted in accordance with the regulations.

Hamilton is expected to be at the Mercedes factory in Brackley by the next race at Imola on April 24 as the Silver Arrows catch up with rivals Ferrari and Red Bull.

Hamilton is fifth in the standings, 43 points behind runaway leader Charles Leclerc and nine behind new teammate George Russell.

The 24-year-old has edged Hamilton in two of the first three races and is second in the standings.

George Russell reacts to his first-ever podium finish for Mercedes.

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George Russell reacts to his first-ever podium finish for Mercedes.

George Russell reacts to his first-ever podium finish for Mercedes.

Hamilton and Russell appear to be bonding and went surfing together ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

Asked if he was surprised at how well the two Brits got along, Wolff said: “Yes because they are both very competitive yet able to work together.

“The effort they put into showing respect – from youngster to best of all time and from Lewis to appreciate George’s future talent – is impressive.”

FIA admits ‘human error’ in Hamilton-Verstappen title controversy

The FIA ​​released its full report on the Abu Dhabi GP last month and confirmed that “human error” was a factor in the 2021 title controversy, but said Masi had acted in “good faith. and that the race and championship results were “valid”.

In the report, the FIA ​​acknowledges that Masi breached F1 regulations with his handling of the final safety car and allowing a final lap of the race between Verstappen and Hamilton.

The FIA ​​said the race director “recalled the safety car into the pit lane without having completed an extra lap as required by the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations (article 48.12)”

The report also mentions the fact that only five cars were able to run under the safety car, and not all the cars without a timer according to the regulations.

“The process of identifying run-in cars has until now been a manual process and human error has led to not all cars being cleared to run-in.”

They say they have developed software in response that will “automate the communication of the list of cars that must run”.

But they also defend Masi saying: “The report concludes that the race director acted in good faith and to the best of his knowledge given the difficult circumstances, in particular acknowledging the significant time constraints for the decisions to be made and the immense pressure exerted by the teams.

“The results of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the FIA ​​Formula 1 World Championship are valid, final and can no longer be changed.”