Masi sheds light on 'swap' deal


Michael Masi has given insight into one mysterious aspect of Sunday's intriguing Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Ahead of the second restart, following the indent when Max Verstappen went off track in Turn 2 in his bid to pass Lewis Hamilton, fans were given access to the radio conversations between race director, Michael Masi and the sporting directors at Red Bull and Mercedes.

As the moments to the restart ticked down, Masi was heard effectively bargaining with the teams, keen to resolve the situation before handing it over to the stewards.

While Mercedes was agreeable to Verstappen starting third on the grid, behind Ocon and Hamilton, Red Bull asked for time to consider its response before finally accepting the deal, no doubt aware that the stewards would make no such compromise.

While giving a fascinating insight to the behind the scenes activity, many felt the bargaining was wrong and wholly out of place. However, Masi has defended the move.

"I wouldn't call it a deal as, from a race director's perspective, I have no authority to actually instruct the teams to do anything," explained the Australian.

"In that situation, I can give them an offer, the ability to do that, but the choice is theirs," he added. "The stewards are obviously empowered to impose penalties, but I can give them my perspective. That's why I offered them the ability to give that position up."

Had the race not been red flagged for a second time, following the Sergio Perez and Nikita Mazepin incidents, the decision on handing position back would have come sooner.

"It was as a result of the red flag that came about with the incident at Turn 3," he said. "The priority in any red flag situation is to make sure the drivers are safe, then to activate the recovery, and the marshals can do so, clean the track and so forth.

"So it probably seemed a bit elongated compared to normal, however, it's very much normal discussion that takes place.

"When I saw it happen at Turn 2, I immediately suggested to the stewards that I'm going to give the team the ability to give that place back," he said of Verstappen's move on Hamilton. "The red flag obviously was issued very quickly thereafter and that was absolutely the priority before we got going again.

"Being under a suspension, it was the ability to effectively correct that before we went racing again. That's very much a normal discussion that happens regularly on a number of occasions and has had all year and previously."

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Published: 07/12/2021
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