Max Verstappen believes that former F1 race director Michael Masi was thrown under the bus following the controversial ending to the 2021 Formula 1 season.
Speaking at winter testing, the reigning world champion didn’t hold back in his assessment of the FIA’s actions to replace Masi with two new race directors for the upcoming season, claiming that the Australian’s sacking was “unacceptable.”
Masi has been replaced by Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich for ’22, with both rotating in the role throughout the year.
“I think it’s not correct,” Verstappen explained. “Everyone always tries to do the best job and everyone can always use help.
“As drivers, we have a whole team behind us always. For me it’s very unfair what happened to Michael because he’s really been thrown under the bus. Of course, people talk a lot about what was decided in Abu Dhabi, but can you imagine a referee in whatever sport, the coach or equivalent screaming in his ear all the time? ‘That’s a yellow card, red card, no, no decision, no foul’, you know? It’s impossible to make a decision.
“So I think in the first place, that F1 already allowed team members to talk to him while making decisions is very wrong, because it needed to be Michael making the decisions on his own without having people screaming in his ear. The people who did sack him – that in the first place for me is unacceptable.
“I find it really incredible. So I feel really sorry for Michael because I think he was a very capable and good race director and I have nothing against the new race directors because I think they’re also very capable and very good race directors. But personally, for Michael, I felt really sad and I sent him a text. [It’s] not the right decision.”
Verstappen also indicated that Masi was judged harshly due to him being a replacement for the much loved and highly-rated Charlie Whiting, who held the same role up until his passing on the eve of the 2019 F1 season.
The Dutch driver said that more experience around Masi might have been able to improve the standard of officiating throughout last season, something that Whiting had plenty of.
“I do think if he would have maybe put someone next to him after Charlie died – it’s very hard to take over from someone like him, you know, he had so much experience from previous years. I think it would have been the same for Michael so to immediately sack him for me is not the right decision, but I wish him all the best. Whatever comes next and I hope it is better than being an F1 race director.”