Unearthed Masi comments show Hamilton decision went against F1 chief’s rules

Michael Masi is a man under fire at the moment – and now past comments attributed to the Australian are set to increase the scrutiny.

FIA race director Masi was central to the storm that tainted a wild finale to the F1 season in Abu Dhabi, which saw Max Verstappen overtake Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to claim the F1 title in sensational fashion.

After controlling much of the race, Hamilton was seemingly cruising to the chequered flag when he held an 11-second lead over his Dutch rival in the latter stages, only for Williams driver Nicholas Latifi to crash and spark chaos.

A safety car was deployed, at which point Verstappen took the gamble of pitting for fresh tyres.

However, that move appeared futile when Masi, 42, instructed that lapped cars could not overtake the safety vehicle, only to then change his mind on the penultimate lap having been pressured by Christian Horner.

Critically however, it was only the five cars between Hamilton and Verstappen permitted to do so, and the Red Bull man was able to get on Hamilton's tail and on newer tyres, he duly seared past the British driver during a one-lap shootout.

Masi's actions left Mercedes furious, and led to widespread accusations that the Australian deliberately manufactured an exciting finale to benefit the spectacle.

Two subsequent protests from Toto Wolff's team were rejected, with the team then immediately signalling an intent to appeal. They will have until Thursday to do so.

And now more scrutiny is likely to fall on Masi with his decision starkly contrasting his stance taken at the Eifel Grand Prix In Germany, back in October 2020.

In that race, McLaren driver Lando Norris was left in a precarious position after a power unit issue prompted smoke and fire to come from his car, and Masi was later criticised for ordering a safety car and then allowing it to stay out for a prolonged period.

”There’s a requirement in the sporting regulations to wave all the lapped cars past,” he later told Motorsport Week.

“From that point, it was position six onwards that were still running [on the lead lap], so between 10 or 11 cars had to unlap themselves.

“Therefore the safety car period was a bit longer than what we would have normally expected.”

Had that apparent precedent been implemented on Sunday, and all lapped cars been allowed to unlap themselves, there would not have been time for the safety car to leave the track ahead of that dramatic final lap.

Masi's comments potentially leave Masi open to further criticism as the fall out from the Yas Marina rages on.

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