Michael Massey has been sacked as Formula One racing director after an investigation into his handling of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December.
Massey erred in ending the title dispute between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton last year. The race was settled with a fast one-lap sprint, which saw Verstappen pass Hamilton to win the title after safety car restart rules were incorrectly applied by Masi.
Massey actually forced that last-lap standoff when he only allowed a certain number of swerving cars to overtake Hamilton, resulting in Verstappen moving right behind him on brand new tires before restarting the race one lap before the regulations said he was supposed to do so in this Situation.
On Thursday, new FIA President Mohamed bin Sulayem confirmed that Massey had been removed and replaced with an overhauled system for controlling Formula One racing.
The decision is actually an admission by the FIA that the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix should not be restarted the way it was.
The role of Race Director will be filled by two people in turns. Nils Wittich, current DTM race director, and Eduardo Freitas, current World Endurance Championship race director, will take turns filling the role.
They will be assisted by Herbie Blush, 73, who had been working in a similar role under former race director Charlie Whiting but retired in 2016. Massey stepped in to replace Whiting after his untimely death on the eve of the 2019 season opener.
One of the sticking points in Massey’s handling of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was how he appeared to be overwhelmed by messages from Mercedes and Red Bull. The FIA has confirmed that teams will no longer be able to send direct messages to the race director, which Blash is supposed to deal with in his new role.
They will be assisted by a virtual race control room that the FIA has likened to the controversial Virtual Assistant Referee (VAR) system in football. This will be outside the F1 circuit and will work in real time with the F1 race director to enforce the sporting regulations “using the latest technological tools”.
The timing of the announcement was intriguing, coming moments after Ferrari, the sport’s most popular team, launched its new F1 car for the 2022 season.
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