Fernando Alonso hopes Abu Dhabi did “not” play a part in Michael Masi’s axing as he doesn’t feel “there was anything wrong there”.
At the end of a season in which there several complaints about Masi and a general lack of consistency from the F1 race stewards, the Australian’s position as FIA race director become untenable when his decision-making had a major impact on the title race.
Lewis Hamilton was closing in on a record-breaking eighth Drivers’ Championship as he led the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen only for a late Safety Car to be thrown into the mix.
Masi made the unprecedented call to allow only the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves, setting up a final lap shoot-out that was won by Verstappen, the Red Bull driver therefore beating Hamilton to the World title.
Two months later, new FIA president Mohammed bin Sulayem announced changes to the race director role with Masi leaving the position, replaced by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas. The two will alternate the job, supported by Herbie Bash.
At no point in his statement did Bin Sulayem say Masi’s exit was the result of his Abu Dhabi decision with Alonso hoping that had nothing to do with it.
“I mean… the new president obviously wanted to make sure that everything was in place, as I said also a couple of times I like Mohammed, I like the approach he has,” he told The Race.
“So if he thinks that we needed some new ideas there, it’s for the good for everyone, so I’m happy with that.
“On the whole theme of Abu Dhabi, maybe I have a different opinion, I don’t think that there was anything wrong there.
“I don’t think that they changed it [the race control structure] because of Abu Dhabi, or I hope not.”
There will also a new Virtual Race Control Room that will be in communication with the FIA race director, helping to apply the sporting regulations by using the most modern technological tools available.
Bin Sulayem also announced a tweak to the wording in the Safety Car regulations.
That now states that the Safety Car period will come to an end “once the message ‘lapped cars may now overtake’ has been sent to all competitors”.
This can only happen after the clerk of the course has declared the track safe.
Alonso’s team-mate Esteban Ocon, who had previously defended Masi saying the Australian could “not please everyone”, says he hopes the new systems in place means there will be consistency throughout the season.
“If the rules can be followed the whole time, and be more consistent, I’m very pleased,” said the Frenchman.
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