The controversial Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi 2021 will cost Michael Masi the post of race director of Formula 1. Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will take his place. The FIA is completely rebuilding the structures so that a season finale like that experienced in Formula 1 last year cannot be repeated.
It was to be expected. Two months after the season finale in Abu Dhabi, the FIA ousted Michael Masi. The Australian loses his job as Formula 1 race director. Masi served for three seasons following the sudden death of Charlie Whiting in March 2019 but stumbled over his decisions in the heated pre-season championship fight. The new President of the FIA, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, announced the change in personnel on Thursday (February 17, 2022).
The announcement came at the same time as Ferrari unveiled its new F1-75. Apparently, the FIA wanted to aim to create as little hustle and bustle as possible. Ben Sulayem thanked Masi for his commitment over the past three years. He wants to offer the Australian an unspecified position within the FIA.
Wittich-Freitas double leadership
Masi gone, a double leadership will take his place. Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will share the duties of race director in the future. The two should take turns so that no one has to shoulder the burden of the race director. Most recently, Wittich was race director of the DTM, Freitas in the Sports Car World Championship (WEC). They will be joined by Herbie Blash, formerly Whiting's right-hand man and now operating in an advisory capacity.
FIA restructures to avoid Abu Dhabi repeating itself. You look at a system from international football. A second command center is created in Paris, which is called the "Virtual Race Control Room". This is similar to the video assistant in soccer. The offshoot should work for the race directors on the route and support them in interpreting the sporting regulations.
The direct line to the race management will be interrupted. Team bosses should no longer be able to lobby during the race. That happened in Abu Dhabi when both Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and his counterpart Christian Horner intervened and put pressure on them. The whole thing was broadcast live on TV - and put the race control in a bad light. It should still be possible for the teams to make contact in the future. This is also important in the case of possible ambiguities, such as controversial overtaking manoeuvres. However, a clearly defined framework is required. Nobody should be able to be pushy anymore.
The FIA also wants to revise the procedure for rounding back. A working group is working on this. Concrete proposals are to be made at the next meeting of the Formula 1 Commission before the start of the season.