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Much-criticised ex-Formula One race director Masi quits FIA

Michael Masi, removed as Formula One race director over his management of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year, has left the FIA, the sport’s governing body said.

“The FIA confirms that Michael Masi has decided to leave the FIA and relocate to Australia to be closer to his family and take on new challenges,” read a statement from the FIA.

“He oversaw a three-year period as FIA Formula 1 race director and safety delegate following the sudden passing of Charlie Whiting in 2019, carrying out the numerous functions he was tasked with in a professional and dedicated manner.”

Masi was heavily criticised for the sequence of events that led to Max Verstappen passing Lewis Hamilton to deprive the Briton of a record eighth title.

Masi called in the safety car for the final lap, then controversially allowed the backmarkers between race leader Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves.

That led to a one lap shoot-out between Hamilton and Verstappen, who with fresh tyres on his Red Bull car had a huge advantage. The Dutchman exploited it to stunning effect when he picked off Hamilton in his Mercedes to seal the title.

Mercedes and Red Bull both put pressure on Masi to make decisions which would have helped their driver. The former were left incensed as they believed Masi followed their rivals’ suggestions.

The team made two immediate protests, both of which were rejected.

Hamilton, while graceful in defeat, had made his feelings all too clear when passed by his Dutch arch rival, saying on his team radio: “This has been manipulated man.”

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff raised the possibility that Hamilton might even walk away from the sport.

Wolff claimed a “disillusioned” Hamilton would “never get over” the Abu Dhabi conclusion.

Both boycotted the end-of-season gala dinner at the FIA’s Paris headquarters where Verstappen was duly anointed as world champion.

Hamilton though, did return and presently sits in sixth position in the overall standings, 99 points adrift of championship leader Verstappen at the halfway point of the season.

Since the controversial finish to the Abu Dhabi race the FIA have announced measures to ease the pressure on the race director and also altered the mode of communicating with him.

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