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Don't blame Masi

NEWS STORY
13/12/2021

Don't blame Michael Masi for the Abu Dhabi sh*t show, for the responsibility goes far higher.

You'll be familiar with the script. The chief of police wants to take action following a spate of crimes however he is under intense pressure from the mayor, who is swayed by public/media pressure, not to mention the desire to keep his job.

There's a maverick detective who wants to do the right thing and nail the villain, but his hands are tied by the chief of police, who, like the mayor, fears for his job.

Maverick cop wants to do his duty but he is suspended, while the media is quick to tarnish his name.

This year we have grown used to the radio calls to Michal Masi from the teams as they lobby the race director for decisions that go in their favour, never more so than during Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Yet while we were privy to their pathetic pleas we never got to hear the other voices feeding into the race director's ear piece, those from Liberty HQ.

Shortly after the end of the 'race', the Daily Mail's website, one of the most visited English language websites in the world, had the events of Sunday's race as its main feature.

The tabloid, whose site features a daily 'sidebar of shame', and whose usual headline features shock and horror involving celebrities, royalty or politicians, deemed the events in Abu Dhabi to be the biggest story of the moment.

This was no doubt influenced by activity on social media where various aspects of the race were trending.

For a media company like Liberty Media this was the jackpot, for while the race had already caught the general public's imagination, as events unfolded the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had surpassed the pandemic, global warming and even events in Ukraine in terms of popularity.

Michael Masi, who was previously race director for F2 and F3 and was appointed assistant to Charlie Whiting - on the Briton's watch - is no idiot, but sadly, like many others currently involved in F1 is a front man.

Much like Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali, Masi is there as the 'acceptable face' of F1 for the fans, as Liberty Media is busy pulling the strings behind the scenes.

For Liberty, all publicity really is good publicity, and not content with the excellent season that the players have given us want more. After all, the bottom line is money, and the more people watching, reading and talking F1 the better it is for the coffers... of which Liberty wants a bigger slice.

On social media fans have been arguing how Charlie Whiting would not have done what Michael Masi did however, the fact is that Charlie wouldn't have allowed such a situation to come about. At the first sign of someone, even Bernie, attempting to manipulate him they would have been told politely but firmly to "sod off". Masi, on the other hand, is a patsy, appearing to look a fool as he dithers under pressure from Toto and Christian, while all the time under even greater pressure from the likes of Chase Carey and Greg Maffei.

We have no leanings towards either of the title protagonists, but the fact is that, ignoring the first lap incident, Sunday was Hamilton's race, consequently it was his title.

We do not believe under any circumstances that Nicholas Latifi's crash was anything but an accident, but once it happened the sport's powers that be saw their chance.

It wasn't what happened following that crash that galls it is the sheer blatancy of it all, as if we are being taken for mugs and cannot see what is happening, and what is happening is that the sport is being compromised and manipulated not merely to create a show but the show.

However, having tinkered away, and little by little got what it wanted, a high octane soap opera come thriller for the masses, yesterday it came to back to bite those responsible.

Let's face it, since acquiring the keys to F1, other than the pandemic Liberty hasn't faced ay real problems.

OK, there was some brief resistance from Sergio Marchionne, but no break away threats, no EC investigations, the teams rolled over for the budget cap and much more, even races in Saudi Arabia and Qatar barely raised an eyebrow.

Bernie, on the other hand, had to endure two EC investigations, three breakaways, a criminal trial, two civil trials, Max Mosley's scandal and the long-held desire to impose a budget cap. Not to mention events like Imola 1994.

However, Liberty's easy ride may come to an end as a result of its own actions, for as some fans threaten to walk away, totally disillusioned with what their sport has become, the biggest threat right now is the possibility of Lewis Hamilton following suit.

Ignoring the fact that Sunday may have been his last chance to secure that eighth title the fact is that, like our maverick cop, Lewis knows that the mayor and City Hall have tied his hands, and that even if he gets the goods on the villain, the case will never stand.

Courtesy of the machinations of a media company - a media company - Michael Masi is having his reputation trashed right now, but moving forward, as Liberty seeks to build on what it succeeded in doing this weekend, it is Formula One that will ultimately suffer.

Of course, with Mercedes considering whether to lodge a formal protest, one wonders if Liberty foolishly believes that in reversing Sunday's result even more attention might be drawn to the sport.

Then again, this is what happens when you make up the rules as you go along and merely for your own benefit.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Yas Marina, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Encarteys, 15/12/2021 17:47

"While I agree with the majority of this article, I do think that Masi's flippant "We went racing" response to Wolff indicates just how much F1 is turning to it's newly-found Netflix demographic at the expense of regulations and precedence. As Race Director, he shouldn't be coming across as playing to the gallery.

One other thing. With all the bickering and finger pointing during and after the race (Horner, Masi, Marko, Wolff being the main protagonists), both the Hamiltons rose above the fray with Anthony making a point to congratulate Verstappen pater et fils. A class act. There's been talk, including here, that Lewis might walk away from the sport; if that's the case F1 will be the poorer for it. "

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2. Posted by equator180, 15/12/2021 2:13

"Lewis turned out to be a good looser and his comment to Max was right on, "You deserved it..." "

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3. Posted by Pavlo, 14/12/2021 6:34

"@Bill Hopgood: as RB correctly pointed, „any“ doesn’t mean „all“. The fact that this timing never happened doesn’t mean that should never happen.
It was clear that the lapped cars will not catch the tail, but it was the price to pay for „letting them finish not under the SC“.
As to other cars - either they would overtake Lewis and not change anything, or they would interfere with the restart already declared after SC is already (!) in the garage, making director guilty for the mess and possible crash on the start line. That was unfortunate for Lewis, but correct and predictable decision."

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4. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 14/12/2021 6:08

"@Pavlo, yes, the rule to allow lapped cars to overtake the safety car has been around for years. However, as far as I can remember, it was ALL of the cars that were allowed to pass the safety car, not just those in between P1 and P2.

Also, most of the time those cars also get to whip round at racing speed to catch the "tail" of the field.

That is the heart of the dispute.

The Race Director is to blame in letting himself get into this situation by even entertaining a call from the teams in the field.

I've been in race control (not F1) when there is a vehicle recovery to be done under safety car and there is a lot going on with the primary focus being the safe recovery of the vehicle, and different people are keeping the race director up to date with the safety car progress around the track, laps left, race time left.

As the recovery part is resolved attention focuses on getting the race going again.

I would have thought that Masi should have cut Horner off and said "I'll call you once we are underway."

Then again, until we are in a similar situation ourselves or know all the facts then we can't really comment with much accuracy.

My main concern is all this is that only some not all lapped cars were let past the safety car."

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5. Posted by TokyoAussie, 14/12/2021 3:21

"Dunno what pressure Masi was under to stage that farce, but it shouldn't matter. He was not getting minute-by-minute instructions on how to stage the last lap; he made those decisions. I think he should cop the blame."

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6. Posted by The Canadian, 13/12/2021 23:25

"Mercedes passed on 2 chances to pit prior to the last lap, in order to maintain track position, which Lewis openly questioned the wisdom of.... Max got him on fresh tires. That's racing. Looking forward to next year"

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7. Posted by Pavlo, 13/12/2021 22:41

"@MerlinsFriend - this rule (to allow lapped overtake) was followed for many years, including this year to the benefit of Lewis, and no one protested (incl. comments here). This alone is enough to "make sense" applying it in the last race of the year.
@Spindoctor - according to Masi, the decision to have one final lap goes first, based on the long-standing agreement on demand of all the teams to end the race with racing mode if the track is cleared. Decision to allow overtake comes second and it's ok to allow only the ones who can safely pass Lewis to to so. Seeing how close to where they overtook Lewis slowed down and started preparing for restart, we can't say now for sure, but the risk of being to close was there and it's ok for director to decide.
@ian_w: (1) Ricciardo didn't care about that 11th place, why would you? (2) whenever pre-communicated, action may be allowed only when the last debris and marshalls left the track. Even more - how director can pre-communicate, if he can only foresee that the tractor is quick?

@RP and all: director passed the test. If messaging would be cleaner, the mark would be "excellent", but he managed only "average pass". He clearly understood how unfair this bad luck was to Lewis and what this last lap means, but he is not allowed to offset this bad luck and help him. And he passed the test by not bending the rules to help Lewis. Mercedes had a chance to guess how long it takes to remove Williams, they missed, and all the director could do is to let them race that lap.
One more: everyone knows that SC is a possible risk. But as we know, it's not enough to get luck, you need to be ready to use it it. Today Lewis and Mercedes (with Bottas) failed to protect from bad luck, while Max and RB (with Perez) were made them ready to use the chance they got. it's unfair, but it's racing."

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8. Posted by Defiant, 13/12/2021 19:02

"@Motorsport-fan the reason they have to do a lap and not just drop back is because they say it messes with the timing gear..... This made sense the first year that this came up, but as far as I'm concerned they've had over a decade to install a program in the computer software that would allow that very thing.... but here we are, with the FIA still thinking analog and not digital."

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9. Posted by RP, 13/12/2021 17:06

"In any given race, the fastest car driver/combo doesn't always win the race. In the current environment, a given car's performance on fresh soft tires vs worn hard is dramatic and as we have seen all season. An opportunity to change at the right time allowed Hamilton close in over many laps chasing Verstappen and pass near the race end. This time, Verstappen was behind other car who were also racing for points and that made the difference. Just as putting on fresh tires at the end and with low fuel allows for anyone in a Mercedes of Red Bull to gain fastest lap,these tire assured Verstappen of passing Hamilton with a full lap to go. The decisions and subsequent change made it clear the championship was being handed to Verstappen. Masi is experienced enough to see what he was going to allow to happen. Yes, Liberty see all publicity as good and that stinks. But for Masi, integrity was involved. He failed the test. It was manipulated. You lie down with dogs, you get fleas."

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10. Posted by Roli, 13/12/2021 16:55

"Why not blame him? He has brought F1 into disrepute. He has no ideas of the rules, he has just made them up as he went bungling along from one boob to another (Ive kept it clean). If he is still at the post in 2022 then F1 is finished."

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11. Posted by Elio, 13/12/2021 15:52

"The interest in formula one seems to have skyrocketed over the last few years with the Netflix series and social media exposure, and in particular this year as the title fight has kept everyone on their toes. Liberty wants to keep the momentum and I wouldn't want to be in Masi's shoes with the constant pressure to be flexible with the interpretation of the rules to create as much entertainment as possible. Because that is clearly what it is about. For the broader audience that may be a good thing, but for those of us who follow f1 with a serious interest going back decades I feel that it's in danger of becoming too much of a spectacle.

It is quite an irony thet the car/team in front has a disadvantage in a situation like this. If you pit you risk losing position, if you don't you're stuck with worn tyres. A rule of closing the pitlane would address that problem. (A written rule, not improvised.)

There have been some strange decisions this year. As I'm new on this forum and haven't been able to make any comments on previous races, let me just mention last weekend in Saudi Arabia. As far as I understand, a lap that brings out a red flag should not count as a race lap, and according to the rules the restart should have had the same grid positions as the previous one, as not a single lap had been completed. This would also render what happened between Lewis and Max into the first corner obsolete. But hey, let's create a little controversy and also get someone like Ocon in pole on the restart for good measure! Also, tyres used during the red flagged lap should not count as having been used."

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12. Posted by stoney, 13/12/2021 15:34

"It's actually reassuring even to hear someone else stating "We do not believe under any circumstances that Nicholas Latifi's crash was anything but an accident, but..."

I spent most of the final moments of the race feeling completely saddened and despondent at what I was seeing unfold. I think most of all, it was seeing my son going absolutely bananas, cheering Max's victory (I'm English, but I live in the Netherlands) - and thinking that he's probably being manipulated in ways he can't even imagine..."

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13. Posted by Spindoctor, 13/12/2021 15:05

"@Pavlo There were no "safety" reasons to prevent Masi from allowing all the other lapped cars to unlap themselves, except of course that might have spoilt the "exciting" outcome of the race by preventing RBR from exploiting their tyre advantage......"

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14. Posted by MerlinsFriend, 13/12/2021 15:04

"I don't understand that if the leading driver has to battle through some back markers, when the SC is deployed those same back markers are moved out of the way for following driver(s). I know it is in the rules, but makes no sense to me."

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15. Posted by F1 fan, 13/12/2021 14:43

"So am I to infer that according to Christian Horner, who said that they would need intervention from the Racing Gods, Latifi has been raised from a lowly back marker fighting with the Haas drivers for last place to a "RACING GOD"
Bring back Bernie, the Iron Fist of F1."

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