Formula One world champion Max Verstappen said on Thursday he thinks former FIA race director Michael Masi was “thrown under a bus” after he was removed following last season’s dramatic final Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.
Masi was dropped after making a series of controversial decisions in the season finale, with Verstappen able to overtake Lewis Hamilton on the last lap to clinch the title.
“I think it’s not correct,” said Verstappen when asked about the decision to remove Masi.
“Everyone always tries to do the best job, everyone can always use help.
“Like us drivers also – we have the whole team behind us, we prove it ourselves. For me, it’s very unfair what happened to Michael – he was really being thrown under the bus.
“(The fact they) did sack him like that in the first place for me is unacceptable. And now basically (that they) sacked him is really incredible. I feel really sorry for Michael.”
Verstappen said he sent Masi a text to offer his support.
“I think he was a very capable and good race director,” Verstappen said.
“I have nothing against the new race directors – because I think they are also very capable and very good race directors.
“But, personally, and for Michael, I felt really sad and I sent him a text as well.”
Verstappen was speaking at a press conference on the second day of pre-season testing in Barcelona, ahead of next month’s opening race in Bahrain.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was top of the leaderboard on day two with a time of 1min 19.689sec while AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly recorded the most laps with 150.
1. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1min 19.689sec (79 laps), 2. Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri) 1:19.918 (147), 3. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/McLaren) 1:20.288 (126), 4. George Russell (GBR/Mercedes) 1:20.537 (66), 5. Carlos Sainz (ESP/Ferrari) 1:20.546 (71), 6. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Aston Martin) 1:20.784 (74), 7. Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull) 1:21.430 (78), 8. Nikita Mazepin (RAF/Haas) 1:21.512 (42), 9. Alexander Albon (THA/Williams) 1:21.531 (47), 10. Guanyu Zhou (CHN/Alfa Romeo) 1:21.885 (71), 11. Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams) 1:21.894 (61), 12. Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin) 1:21.920 (55), 13. Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas) 1:21.949 (66), 14. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine) 1:22.164 (125), 15. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Alfa Romeo) 1:22.288 (21), 16. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:22.562 (40)