Lewis Hamilton did not have the same opportunity from a lead that had barely looked under threat all race. He had been on course to win the Grand Prix and championship title from behind the safety car until Masi’s unprecedented decision.
Verstappen duly passed Hamilton and clinched his first world title.
Blash returns to F1 after five seasons away following his step down as FIA deputy race director to the late Charlie Whiting, Masi’s predecessor.
He held the position since 1996 and was replaced by Laurent Mekies who soon departed the FIA for Ferrari in 2018. Since then, the FIA has failed to find a direct replacement to take up the position, something that may have impacted the officiating of the ’21 season and placed extra pressure on Masi.