Michael Masi and FIA

Toto Wolff vs Michael Masi, Mercedes and the FIA: Let’s see the situation

Confusion after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix? So have we. Perhaps no one expected such a finish for the 2021 season. Formula 1 has managed to draw the world’s attention to motorsport, but the “sporting” component itself is being called into question, from the race at Yas Marina to the FIA regulations and the work of Michael Masi. Thus, Max Verstappen’s victory became the most high-profile event of 2021. That sparked a series of heated controversies that will drag on. What is the origin of the conflict between Toto Wolff and Michael Masi? Why does the FIA call the shots? Let us analyze key opinions to have a clear idea of what is going on and let us draw conclusions.

Epic Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021
Epic Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021

The starting point between Toto Wolff and Michael Masi.

Lewis Hamilton led for most of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix until Williams driver Nicholas Latifi crashed into the wall on the 51st of 58 laps. A safety car appeared on the track due to the garbage. Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez changed tires on the fresh soft. The leader Lewis Hamilton remained on his Hard tyres to save the lead. On lap 56, Michael Masi claimed a restart. He informed the lapped drivers between Hamilton and Verstappen that they could overtake the leader and the safety car to return with them on one lap. The case involved drivers between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Meanwhile the other lapped drivers,didn’t get the same instructions despite the FIA regulations. Max Verstappen used fresh tyres to overtake Hamilton. He won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and become Formula 1 World Champion.

What did Michael Masi say to Toto Wolff?

No, no Michael – that was so not right,” fired back mr. Wolff. Masi’s condescending response did little to ease the tension or spotlight on him.

It’s called a motor race,”- noted Michael Masi.

Should the race be ended by a safety car? As it was before the restart, Lewis Hamilton would be the winner and for the eighth time Formula 1 World Champion. Could the race be decided like that? – That’s the point. According to FIA regulations, Michael Masi was supposed to instruct all lapped cars to pass leaders. The safety car had to complete one lap and finish the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. That’s the hot topic and also the most difficult conversation about Michael Masi and Toto Wolff.

What are Mercedes protesting about?

Despite the first protest, it was not about Red Bull or Max Verstappen as champion. In general, the protests of Mercedes are directed against the race results of Abu Dhabi GP. The first protest was directed against Verstappen for an alleged violation of the FIA Sporting Regulation. The second concerned Article 48.12 of the FIA rulebook which states that “any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car”. Both Mercedes’ protest rejected, despite successful predictions by the lawyers.
Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton, by mutual consent at Mercedes, decided not to file the next appeal. The entire team turned to profound silence.

Deep silence is the main action of the Mercedes’ protests.

The last time anyone from Mercedes gave an interview to the mass media was Lewis Hamilton. He was talking to David Coulthard before the award ceremony in Abu Dhabi. That was the last Mercedes conversation with the media. Next there were no words or comments or social media posts… the team and the drivers kept quiet. Neither Lewis Hamilton nor Toto Wolff came to the post-race press conference. Nor did the team post on Instagram after the victory in the constructors’ championship.

Almost all the Formula 1 teams stayed for the following tests at Yas Marina before the Formula 1 season 2022. This was the first George Russell debut as the current almost official Mercedes driver. Russell had already replaced Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi in 2020, he was still a Williams driver. The team made no comment or congratulations to George. No official press releases, no posts.

Traditional FIA awards ceremony.

Before the FIA prize giving ceremony, the winners always present the winning cars and do the team photo sessions. In Paris, there were Toyota WEC, WRC cars, but the seats for Mercedes Formula E and Formula 1 were empty. No team photo session either. There was a kind of rush among the race fans. People commented on the FIA posts on Instagram with “Massi out” messages. The other side of the fans commented as “salty” about the Mercedes team.

Mercedes did not directly refuse to attend the FIA awards ceremony, citing a state of frustration with the results. Thus, James Ellison, the technical director of Mercedes F1 Team, went to the grand ceremony instead of Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton. Yes – yes, it was that James we heard on the team radio with Valtteri Bottas.

FIA’s first action

The situation was heating up like a time bomb and nobody knew when it would thunder. Ahead of the awards ceremony, it was clear that Mercedes would fight for the interest until the very end. Toto Wolff and Michael Masi’s negotiations during the last laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix left F1 fans around the world open mouths. Confidence in the sport as a whole has suffered, if not increased. To justify Formula One’s reputation as a sport, the FIA has explained everything point by point.

  • Both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen showed remarkable performance and sportsmanship after the season ended.
  • The Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has provoked a multitude of reactions from all over the world.
  • The safety of all involved and the integrity of the sport are the primary responsibilities of the FIA.
  • Following the report on the sequence of events following the incident on lap 53 of the Grand Prix, the FIA President proposed a detailed analysis.
  • What has happened will be discussed with all teams and drivers and clarified for the participants, media and fans about the current regulations in order to preserve the competitive character.
  • The FIA will set this in motion within the Formula 1 Commission to give the Sporting Advisory Committee, with the support of Formula 1 drivers, a clear mandate for studies and proposals.
  • All conclusions will be drawn before the start of the 2022 season.

Details of what happened on the final laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The circumstances surrounding the use of the Safety Car following the incident of driver Nicholas Latifi, and the related communications between the FIA Race Direction team and the Formula 1 teams, have notably generated significant misunderstanding and reactions from Formula 1 teams, drivers and fans, an argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the Championship and the due celebration of the first Drivers’ World Championship title won by Max Verstappen and the eighth consecutive Constructors’ World Championship title won by Mercedes.

FIA’s official statement
  Toto Wolff and Susie Wolff
Toto Wolff and Susie Wolff

Emotional commentary from Susie Wolff changes the situation.

Susie Wolff, CEO of Venturi Racing in Formula E, did not attend the FIA awards ceremony. She brought even more significance to a difficult situation. Her emotional Twitter post became a blow that led to even more public attention. There are now even more questions for Formula 1 race director Michael Masi.

Susie Wolff on Mercedes and FIA
Susie Wolff’s official Twitter message

Susie Wolff inadvertently pointed out the main culprit in the conflict. So clarity came. It is no longer Mercedes F1 team versus FIA, but Toto Wolff against “one person”. They are demanding Michael Masi’s punishment or suspension, rather both at the same time.

Every coin has two sides.

Despite the destabilizing situation, the Mercedes team were still celebrating their own party. Someone from Mercedes fans uploaded a video of the party on Sunday, where Valtteri Bottas and Toto Wolff looked very happy. After a while, the official Mercedes AMG F1 account rushed in to find the person who had uploaded the video and tried to delete it from all social channels.

Interview with Toto Wolff – up close and personal.

When the FIA announced the formation of the Special Commission, Mercedes were informed that the team were refusing to appeal, with Toto Wolff giving an official interview after a while. The tension rose from a completely different direction. It is still completely unclear whether Lewis Hamilton will even start in Formula 1 in 2022. Messages fly from all sides. Someone even starts talking about what Hamilton will do next year. Lewis himself no longer posts on social media and remains silent.

On the other hand, how could it have happened that we had the only one to blame for the decision – Michael Masi? There were also stewards who made the decisions at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Micahel Masi
Micahel Masi F1 Race director

Toto Wolff vs Michael Masi

It is difficult to blame Masi’s work throughout the 2021 Formula 1 season. He has done it the best he can. Today, after the last interview at Yas Marina, Michael Masi is keeping quiet. Following the Mercedes’ protest and the message from Toto Wolff, F1 fans are demanding the dismissal of the race director.

You might wonder, but many authorities persons in motor racing, are supporting Michael Masi. The current McLaren F1 Team Principal Andreas Seidl stands ready to support Masi personally. Gerhard Berger, ex-Mercedes Director Norbert Haug, Formula 1 expert and ex-driver Martin Brundle and even Alexander Wurz are ready to support current F1 race director.

The legitimate question – could Michael Masi do it differently? Today it becomes the – Will Michael Masi retain his title?

He takes a pragmatic approach and tries to find solutions, but I don’t think he does anything that isn’t allowed,”
“[He] handled the situation well, even if it meant bad luck for one side. For the fan, it’s the right thing to do and he’s allowed to do it.

Gerhard Berger
FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem
Mohammed Ben Sulayem

FIA elections or the level of tension is easing

Meanwhile, the FIA elected a new president on 17 December. It may not be a big event, but it is one of the most important for the future of motorsport. Mohammed Ben Sulayem took office with 62% of the votes. Mohammed Ben Sulayem is a very respectful person in motorsport, although he is still a very different person with his own point of view. Later, Toto Wolff will tell us that he has already called Mohammed Ben Sulayem to warn of the current difficult situation, which includes the awarding of the FIA ceremony.

Lewis Hamilton’s absence from the FIA ceremony.

That was the first question to the new FIA President. Will there be penalties for Lewis Hamilton for not attending the FIA ceremony? As you can see, the situation is changing in the opposite direction. Nothing is clear about the penalties yet, but Ben Sulayem made it clear that there will be “no forgiveness.” He also has every reason to punish all Michael Masi as well as Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton at once. Moments later, Mercedes F1 Team Principal was more lenient and explained the position step by step.

The tension is easing

There is so much going on on the intercom that giving fans a little bit of an overview of all the little dramas that happen, like is the car breaking down, are we having some kind of strategy discussions, was meant well. But I think we overshot.
“I need to take myself by the nose, and Christian. We were given the opportunity to talk to the race director directly, and because we fight so fiercely for the interests of our teams all of us overstepped.

Toto Wolff

We started with a protest and a conflict, but now everything seems to be fine. Mercedes team is already posting posts on social media. It is clear that the established commission of inquiry into the situation at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will continue to investigate the case for a long time.
Is Michael Masi to blame? Yes, only that he is a man and not a machine. Today, however, much depends on the decision of the new FIA President and his view of things.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton

Instead of an epilogue, or where do find the same steel nerves as Max Verstappen?

Against the background of story about Toto Wolff and Michael Masi, we would like to highlight the impeccable composure of Max Vesrtappen. However, after the race at the Yas Marina circuit, the Red Bull driver became a Formula 1 champion three times due to protests from Mercedes. Nevertheless, Verstappen did not make any negative comments about Lewis or Mercedes to the press. On the contrary, he expresses his respect for Hamilton through the media. Max does not hide the fact that Toto Wolff has politely congratulated him. This position not only graces the Red Bull driver, but proves once again how deserving Max Verstappen has become a Formula 1 champion.

Toto Wolff vs. Michael Masi: A headache for the FIA.

As long as the investigation into what happened in the final laps of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix continues, Lewis Hamilton’s future in Formula One 2022 remains unclear. Although 82% of F1 fans believe that the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was not rigged against Hamilton, the situation is heating up. Furthermore, most experts around Formula 1 claimed that an end to the fight for the World Championship is not an option for Lewis Hamilton. Former champion Mario Andretti believes Lewis Hamilton would be doing himself a “disservice” if he did not return.

We also suggest that the current situation and Max Verstappen’s championship should give Lewis Hamilton new reasons to be even hungrier for victory. However, it is not as simple as that. Today, it becomes clear: either Michael Masi leaves the post of Formula One Director of Racing or Lewis Hamilton leaves Formula 1. Furthermore, Mercedes F1 team principal Toto Wolff only adds fuel to the fire by claiming that it would be a major blow to Formula 1 if Lewis Hamilton does not return. While the FIA understands how difficult things are, it is in no hurry to retire Michael Masi.

Sure, Michael Mas i has made some strange decisions in Formula One 2021, but there is still no clear situation to retire the race director. The committee will therefore present the report just days before the start of Formula One testing, while fans await Lewis Hamilton’s decision on the future. At the same time, there are some rumors about who will succeed Hamilton at Mercedes. Esteban Ocon and even Sebastian Vettel are possible candidates for the new role.

To be continued…

The more the situation comes to a head in this way, the more it seems as if Mercedes have the special agreement to keeps getting F1 fans’ attention during the winter break…