Motor racing-Vettel hopes F1 race director Masi stays on – Metro US

Motor racing-Vettel hopes F1 race director Masi stays on

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

(Reuters) – Sebastian Vettel said he hopes Formula One race director Michael Masi keeps his job after the Australian made a controversial safety car call in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that denied Lewis Hamilton an unprecedented eighth title.

Masi has come under fire for his decision to alter the safety car procedure by getting only the lapped cars between race-leading Hamilton and second-placed rival Max Verstappen out of the way after a late-race crash.

The decision set up a last-lap showdown between the two title rivals and allowed Verstappen, on fresher tyres, to pass Hamilton and win his first title.

“It’s not the easiest sometimes to be in the shoes of the referee or Michael’s shoes,” said four-times champion Vettel ahead of the launch of his Aston Martin team’s new car for 2022.

“But I think he’s done a great job especially filling in after (former F1 race director) Charlie (Whiting) passed away so sudden…”

The governing FIA has launched an investigation into the controversy, which has prompted speculation about Hamilton’s future in the sport.

The outcome of the investigation, led by the FIA’s executive director of single seaters Peter Bayer, will be put before the Formula One Commission next week. 

Final decisions are expected to be announced at the World Motor Sport Council on March 18, the same day as Friday’s practice for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.   

Bayer said in an interview with Austrian newspaper Vorarlberger Nachrichten that the FIA were looking at dividing Masi’s tasks as race director to ease his workload.

Yet he also raised the possibility that there could be a new race director. 

Masi stepped into the role of race director after respected predecessor Whiting died suddenly on the eve of the 2019 season.

“I don’t know either what’s his future but I hope he sticks around because I think overall he did a very, very good job,” said Vettel. 

“I think there’s a lot of controversy for the last race. 

“There shouldn’t be. If you look at the bigger picture he’s done really well.”

(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by Toby Davis)