Masi “more than capable” of emulating Whiting’s success as F1 race director

2022 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

Red Bull’s sporting director Jonathan Wheatley has given FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi his full support following the controversial conclusion to last year’s world championship.

Masi’s position is in doubt following his decision to restart the title-deciding race as the final lap began in a way which broke with convention and appeared to contravene the regulations. The FIA’s secretary general for sport Peter Bayer, who is conducting a formal inquiry into the matter, indicated last week Masi may not continue as race director.

Last year was Masi’s third in the role. He took the job on the eve of the 2019 season following the sudden death of previous race director Charlie Whiting. Wheatley described Whiting as a “behemoth of the sport” and said the FIA hadn’t immediately realised the difficulty of replacing him.

“Charlie had the respect, he was consistent in his decision-making, consistent in the way he dealt with people across the board,” Wheatley explained in an interview with Jack Threlfall. “He knew when to tell you to shut up and when you needed an arm around you.

Wheatley helped Verstappen to 2021 title win
“He was an extraordinary man in that respect. I think the FIA were slow to realise just what a big pair of shoes that would be to fill. I think Michael, with the right support, is more than capable of doing that.”

Wheatley’s job puts him in regular contact with Masi. “On a personal level he is entirely a really, really nice guy with no edge to him at all,” he said. “And he listens and tries to do the very best that he can.”

The Abu Dhabi row was the culmination of a series of disputes over the racing rules during the 2021 season, several of which Masi was involved in. Another occured following the Brazilian Grand Prix where several drivers questioned why the stewards had not investigated – let alone penalised – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for running wide and forcing Lewis Hamilton off-track while the pair were fighting for position.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Wheatley said the race director and stewards have “very difficult roles” and need clearer direction from the FIA about the rules of racing.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2021
Analysis: Does F1 need a new race director – or deeper change – after Abu Dhabi restart row?
“Of course we’d all love it to be very, very clear. We’ve had this great overarching philosophy of ‘let them race’. But ‘let them race’ is a philosophy. You’ve then got the black and white of the regulations which is often very prescribed in terms of what penalty, or there’s no wriggle room in it at all.

“I think these are the areas of the sport that needs to come from the very top. It needs to come from the World Motor Sport Council, it needs to say here are the principles by which we’re going racing and then it’s up to the FIA and the teams to work together to a ensure consistent set of sporting regulations.”

Last year Formula 1 broadcast exchanges between teams’ sporting representatives and Masi for the first time. The practice was widely criticised following the Abu Dhabi race, during which both Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and his opposite number at Mercedes, Toto Wolff, were heard arguing with Masi. Wheatley said “it was a mistake to broadcast” such exchanges.

“We have supported Michael, teams have supported Michael and Michael’s helped us. We’ve worked together in a collaborative fashion and that’s worked out really well. And the trouble is, that collaborative fashion dies a death when it’s broadcast.”

Given the high stakes involved in the championship fight, it was inevitable the team principals were going to use the opportunity to lobby Masi, Wheatley believes.

“I did think at some point, of course, the team principles were going to then take over that channel, because the pressure is too important not to, these decisions are too important. So of course it does.

“The other thing is, you might have been able to say, ‘well I’m not sure, that’s not the regulation we should be following, or perhaps should we not be doing it this way’. And of course we can’t have those conversations with the race director if you know they’re going to be broadcast.”

The FIA has already indicated the practice of broadcasting discussions with the race director is unlikely to continue.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2022 F1 season

Brwse all 2022 F1 season articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

Posted on Categories 2022 F1 season articles, F1 newsTags , , ,

Promoted content from around the web | Become a RaceFans Supporter to hide this ad and others

  • 142 comments on “Masi “more than capable” of emulating Whiting’s success as F1 race director”

    1. You’d never have expected Red Bull to side with Masi, would you?

      1. Noframingplease (@)
        2nd February 2022, 7:40

        Indeed, no surprise, but I like it that ‘they’ do not jump the bandwagon of the hysterical news about a certain driver who want to give his fans the impression of quitting just to put the pressure on Masi to leave (yeah, I know, and change some rules).

        1. Well, instead they might give some the impression that the main reason they do not question him is because

          and Michael’s helped us.
          which isn’t a pretty picture at all either, or alternatively and slightly less bad, because they worry that not doing so would put Verstappen’s championship in doubts for some, which I don’t think should be a serious concern as everybody one can take serious already said and confirmed they think Verstappen is a worthy and valid champion.

          1. huh, what happened there, messed up formatting sorry.

        2. Can I just check. Your opinion is that By Hamilton not saying a single word wince the finally after congratulating max on the night is clouding to remove Masi.

          Masi will be removed for simple fact he brought his entire company integrity into question in a public manner. As with any private entity, someone that does that would lose their job.

          His mandate was to apply the sporting regs not play with them. That was the issue. Had he followed the guidelines fingers would still be getting pointed at fro. The other side but at least he would be able to come out and say, I followed the rules but let’s address them. He didn’t he didn’t apply the rules in a fair or sporting way. Which is his role to ensure that they are….
          He failed to do his jobs he is being forced out for his failures to do the job not because Hamilton hasn’t posted on social media since the final race ( which is what he did in 2020 and 2019…..)

        3. @nofanboysplease Mercedes aren’t trying to get rules changed – they’re trying to get the rules to be followed.

        4. A single race earlier, we had Horner criticising Masi as incompetent and unable to match the standards of his predecessor.

          Red Bull were pushing for Masi to go right up to the end of the season, only to instantly pivot to support him because it suits them to.

          You can guarantee that, if Masi remains in place, they will turn on him the instant that one of their drivers gets a penalty.

          1. anon “criticizing Masi as incompetent?” “pushing for Masi to go right up to the end of the season?” Really? You sure you’re not letting your anti-RBR bias get in the way?


            Sure Horner was critical in the heat of the moment over things that happened in that race, but you’ve taken your own special license to exaggerate it, even offering a guarantee of what will happen in the future. And define ‘turn on him.’ Are TP’s no longer allowed to disagree with a stewards’ decision without ‘turning on Masi?’

            1. @robbie I will accept the criticism that it was actually Marko, rather than Horner, who called Masi incompetent, thought there is something rather peculiar about pointing to articles quoting Horner being critical about Masi as evidence of him not being critical of Masi – but, then again, you seem to be taking the attitude that any criticism is just “anti Red Bull bias”. Are you defending Masi because Brawn has done so, and you are repeating what Liberty Media says?

              Meanwhile, yes, there were reports that Red Bull indicated to the FIA that they no longer had faith in Masi’s ability to offer consistent decisions and did not want him to remain as race director. They were not the only ones doing so – most of the teams have been complaining in private that their trust in Masi was seriously diminished because they were not sure what decisions he was going to make, and Red Bull is understood to have been amongst that group.

              Furthermore, do you really think that Red Bull will be so kind and friendly towards Masi as and when one of their drivers is given a penalty? Do you think that they’ll compliment him on his decision making for that?

              Even Wheatley’s comments now, whether intended or not, are a rather back handed compliment in reality, if not in some ways actually a bit of veiled criticism, when you stop and look at what he’s saying. Having talked about Whiting’s consistency and the respect that he was given, to talk about how that is a level of performance that Masi could reach in the future is implying that Masi is currently falling short of those standards now.

            2. Well I even said in my response to you above that Horner was critical of Masi in Saudi Arabia in the heat of the moment, and I provided the quotes from him to show that he did not call Masi incompetent, nor did he say he wanted him gone, which is what you are claiming. So…where is it that I have said Horner has not been critical of Masi? He just hasn’t been critical in the way you have chosen to portray.

              I haven’t seen the reports you speak of that have the teams doubting Masi’s abilities. Perhaps you have links? So I think it is safe to say we won’t know until we know what the outcome is of the investigation into AD and what changes will come of it. So much is speculation right now. But I really won’t be surprised if the outcome is something such as Wheatley is suggesting…Masi is actually a good and smart guy, he needs help doing his role, and there could be some changes to the regs surrounding safety car behaviour meant to take some of the type of pressure off of the RD in such highly charged circumstances as we witnessed.

              Do you really think Mercedes would be saying anything different to RBR if the drivers were reversed and it was actually LH that passed Max in the final lap for the WDC? I think Wheatley is pretty clear in what he is saying, and yeah I suppose one could take his words as a backhanded compliment to Masi. Isn’t he therefore acknowledging that he doesn’t think Masi is perfect and everything should just stay the same, just because he made a decision that ended up going RBR’s way? I think Wheatley is acknowledging changes can be made but that you don’t need to throw out the baby with the bath water. He says at the beginning of this article that perhaps it has taken them time to realize what big shoes there were to fill upon Whiting’s unfortunate passing. Perhaps it took for the perfect storm that became the last number of laps of AD for them to realize it.

      2. I was looking how far I would get to see a mention about “but he’s from Red Bull” and it was the first comment.

        It is of course much easier for RB to be in the same side as Masi than Merc guys.

      3. Coventry Climax
        2nd February 2022, 13:06

        To all of the commenters here, and -to some extent- the writers of these articles as well:
        You remind me of a song by King Crimson; Elephant Talk:

        Talk, it’s only talk
        Arguments, agreements
        Advice, answers
        Articulate announcements
        It’s only talk

        Talk, it’s only talk
        Babble, burble, banter
        Bicker, bicker, bicker
        Brouhaha, balderdash, ballyhoo
        It’s only talk
        Back talk

        Talk talk talk, it’s only talk
        Comments, cliches, commentary, controversy
        Chatter, chit-chat, chit-chat, chit-chat
        Conversation, contradiction, criticism
        It’s only talk
        Cheap talk

        Talk, talk, it’s only talk
        Debates, discussions
        These are words with a D this time
        Dialog, duologue, diatribe
        Dissention, declamation
        Double talk, double talk

        Talk, talk, it’s all talk
        Too much talk
        Small talk
        Talk that trash
        Expressions, editorials
        Explanations, exclamations, exaggerations
        It’s all talk
        Elephant talk
        Elephant talk
        Elephant talk

      4. Red Bull afraid that without Masi and rules bending strategy they will fail misrebly and Shaw the real 2021 out come

    2. Ground breaking news. Who’d have thought.

      1. Red Bull desperately needs FIA to keep Masi. If Masi is replaced the asterisk will get even bigger.

        1. But still the friend of obelix :)

          1. While the FIA try to Getafix for the shambles they have created…

      2. May I hijack this thread to claim credit for being the very first person to criticize Masi on this site.
        Made no sense to replace Charlie Whiting. There was only one Charlie. Whitings role should had been rearranged or at least tasked to multiple people. Masi cannot just fullfil everything Whiting was doing just like Charlie was, afterall Whitings role was like it was because he was part of building Bernies F1.

        Now on the subject. Sounds cynical from RB, though Masi actually showed perhaps inadvertently exactly the qualities to succeed, in the end he chose the right call even if it meant bodging his bodge. There was time to properly deal with the accident and cycle the backmarkers but he chose to side with Merc at first and then regretted the whole thing.

    3. I, for a while, agreed with the concept of not broadcasting the race director conversations. However, having thought about it more, I’m unsure of the benefit of concealment. If they happen, why shouldn’t we have a window into such things.

      Perhaps the decision should not be whether we should be privy to them, but whether they should occur, and if they do, what are the limits of what can be raised.

      1. This. The broadcast of the messages has exposed the incompetence, which can only be good for F1 in the long run.

        1. Indeed @j4k3 and @cairnstella if it is happening, I’d rather we know. This isn’t politics where behind the scene talks are useful (and even there it is not always pretty and prone to abuse), but a race and so things should be transparent for all.

      2. Increasing transparency should be considered as a positive. It’s disconcerting to find out how they communicate during a race, but it helps fans get a deeper insight into the sport.

        It’s a weird person that wants less transparency, less information and a less open governing body. In the shadows is where corruption runs rampant.

        1. @cairnsfella @j4k3 @bosyber @jasonj Very much agree with this. To the viewing public and to the teams, the change in 2021 was that the conversations were broadcast, so the knee-jerk solution is to reverse that. But for the race director, the issue is being distracted (and potentially influenced) from their job by multiple teams clamouring to get on their radio loop, which doesn’t change by not broadcasting the transmissions.

          Even barring the team bosses from the radio doesn’t solve the issue, because the managers can be equally talkative. It seems what the race director really needs is a deputy that fields queries from the teams and can act as a filter — and there’s no reason not to broadcast that person’s conversations with the teams.

    4. RandomMallard
      2nd February 2022, 7:47

      Charlie had the respect

      This, I think, is the difference. Masi has lost the respect of the Teams, because they know they can, in desperate want of a better word, manipulate/lobby him to their advantage. A case of give an inch and we’ll take a mile.

      Completey right about it being a difficult job though. And like others have said, while broadcasting the team to FIA radio seems like a good idea on paper, it didn’t really work in practice very well.

      1. Masi has lost the respect of the Teams

        Has he, really?
        Or is that just what the media concoct and outsiders say when some senior staff in certain teams get the short of the stick and have a bit of an outburst?

        There’s a lot going on in F1 that isn’t in the public domain.

        1. Masi’s made a great many mistakes and inconsistent calls and he’s not shown he’s even willing to acknowledge that let alone try and improve. As such he has lost the respect of the teams and you can’t run a race if everyone’s questioning every one of the race director’s decisions.

          1. I think that’s your interpretation of things, Craig. Not theirs.
            They’ve pretty much all stated that things could be better, but at least the smart ones acknowledge that they are part of the problem.

          2. Craig, perhaps you could list the ‘great many mistakes and inconsistent calls’ by Masi. And of course I don’t mean the calls the stewards’ made which were out of Masi’s hands. Perhaps also support your argument that ‘he has lost the respect of the teams…’ I haven’t read a thing about that. Perhaps you have links?

        2. Is this not all about an erosion of respect for Masi though? I’m sure not all teams have lost respect for him but his position is undoubtedly weaker. The first time any quite important decision goes against Mercedes the same old issues are going to be raised. Or if he makes a decision unfavourable to RBR people will say he’s trying to even things up.

          I don’t really see how he can stay in the same role as before. I think it’s right that the FIA seriously consider moving him aside. It’s a difficult role and I’m sure he’s done his best but I don’t see how he can continue if the label is Race Director.

          1. The first time any quite important decision goes against Mercedes the same old issues are going to be raised. Or if he makes a decision unfavourable to RBR people will say he’s trying to even things up.

            So? That’s what people do these days.
            Doesn’t mean that the teams don’t respect Masi or the Race Director’s position in general. What it means is that where in the past they may have grumbled and argued in private, they often now do it in public. The media is everywhere, and many willingly put themselves in it.
            Bernie was famous for keeping all that stuff out of the media, but Liberty are inviting it all – and more. The more media exposure F1 gets, the more money they can make out of it.

            I don’t really see how he can stay in the same role as before.

            I think they would be absolutely wrong to remove him from that role. To do so not only appears as an admission that the FIA was wrong (which is very dangerous for them) but also that when (certain) F1 teams are unhappy they have the power to change the independent administration of F1.
            Whether that’s the actual truth of the situation is irrelevant – but that’s the image of it, and that’s what does the real damage.
            If the FIA appears to be able to be directly or indirectly influenced by any of the participants, then it really doesn’t look good as a fair sporting competition.
            If we know anything about Masi, at least we know he is impartial.

          2. And watch the outcry; particularly from RB, when Hamilton gets away with an infraction. Which I think is more likely given Ham will be all but teflon proof going forward.
            It will be interesting to see how the drivers respond going forward given they weren’t pulling any punches from Brazil onwards.

          3. I don’t think Masi is coming back, keeping him will be bad for F1.

            Masi will likely treat Mercedes favorably to make up for his horrendous call in Abu Dhabi and that’s not good for the sport.

            FIA should admit his ruling was not compliant with the rules book and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

        3. @S

          Has he, really?

          If I was in his shoes, I would certainly not accept the way in which Horner and especially Toto were talking to him. It’s hard to see those communications as respectful.

          1. Neither would I @aapje– but I also wouldn’t be rude to them in that situation either. At least I’d try not to be. Everyone has their own job to do and interests to fight for.
            A calm conversation always achieves more than a shouting match.

            However, I’d most definitely speak to them privately afterwards… And they’d be asked not to do it again.

        4. Did you read anything about McLaren’s Brown new year address, or since it was published online by the team, the thing itself S? It makes very clear that McLaren certainly lost a lot of confidence in Masi. Mercedes should be clear.

          1. No, @bosyber. I have no interest in seeking out all that sort of stuff written primarily for the benefit of the team, their shareholders and their supporters.

            What I do remember is Brown publicly stating that the teams were heavily involved in the decision-making which lead directly to the changes made to Race Control’s interpretations and approach throughout the last couple of years, and he feels that in hindsight it wasn’t in the best interests of F1 as a whole (for obvious reasons).

            From what I’ve seen, Brown seems like a pretty cool guy – but he certainly knows how to play the PR game and get people on his side.

      2. I remeber just as many problems, orobaly a wholemeal worse under Charlie. The difference is social media – Charlie would be eaten alive in this day and age.

        1. It’s only been three years since Charlie’s passing, although I guess plenty has changed even in that short time.

          I think because Charlie was such an established part of the scene it made it difficult to criticise him. He had been around a lot longer than most people he worked with, and I guess most of them believed he would outlast them too, so his authority became virtually unquestionable. In most other scenarios a race director who made the sort of calls Charlie did would never have worked again after Japan 2014, but it goes to show just how untouchable he was.

    5. Expecting many more comments such as the first two above.
      Of course, they do ignore the other times throughout the season when Red Bull had calls go against them…
      If a senior Red Bull team member is still saying what he’s saying despite all those, then maybe he actually means it?
      Or maybe he just supports keeping the experienced, working system he knows and not ditching the current Race Director just to placate some eternally discontented individuals.

      As Wheatley says – what was broadcast was just a tiny part of what goes on in the background and was obviously massively lacking in wider context.
      The teams wanted those broadcasts, and those regulations – let’s not forget that. It was all discussed and agreed internally long before they got to Abu Dhabi.

      1. Of course, they do ignore the other times throughout the season when Red Bull had calls go against them

        Those were from the Stewards and not Masi.

        1. Indeed – which reinforces my point.
          There may well be a lack of faith in the stewarding, but the Race Director is largely doing exactly what he’s agreed with the teams, and certainly isn’t to blame for everything that is wrong with F1.

          “Red Bull staff member thinks Masi is OK” is not surprising – but not just because they won the championship in what some deem to be controversial circumstances.
          It’s because they are constantly working together with each other in the background to agree on how F1 is to be run, week in, week out. They are placing everything in the correct context.

          1. I’ll leave most of it, as you and I are not going to agree, but I will pull you up on:

            in what some deem to be controversial circumstances

            The definition of controversy is:

            prolonged public disagreement or heated discussion

            I think it’s absolutely certain that the race ended in controversial circumstances. The public disagreement shows no signs of slowing down, and no matter how the FIA choose to deal with it after their investigation, there is still likely to be significant disagreement over it for a long time to come. That’s pretty much the definition of “controversial circumstances”.

            1. The public disagreement shows no signs of slowing down,

              Of course not, but its not “public” its fanbase.
              The public enjoyed the race ending to the max.

            2. The Max fanbase is the only one who enjoyed the farce of turning the sportive result upside down. But you showed in your hundreds of comments, that you got some orange glasses on.

            3. The public disagreement

              Is largely irrelevant to what happens within the FIA, @drmouse.
              People talk, people have feelings, people make judgements. That’s what people do, and will always do.

            4. There is public disagreement between groups. One group thinks it was all fine and good, one disagrees.

              BTW it really isn’t just their respective fanbases. I have spoken to Lewis/Merc fans who thing Masi was right, I have spoken to Max/RBR fans who think he was wrong, and I have spoken to those who support neither in each group. I have spoken to people who think it was the right thing to do but did not enjoy the ending, and to people who enjoyed the ending but still don’t think he did the right thing.

              This is not 1 fanbase against the other (or, as you seem to think, one fanbase against everyone else, which really shows your orange-tinted glasses even if everything else didn’t). It is much more than that, and it is definitely a public disagreement.

            5. Are you talking to me, Roman?

              I suggest you go back to several other articles and read my comments.
              I have exactly the same feeling for Verstappen as I do for Hamilton, Horner, Wolff and pretty much everyone else in F1.
              I’m not watching it because I want to see a particular person or team do well – I watch it because it’s great fun picking out what fansites are going to be buzzing with after each event.
              There’s always some controversy or such to complain about. It wouldn’t be F1 without discontent and dissatisfaction.

            6. Is largely irrelevant to what happens within the FIA, drmouse.

              But it does make what you said inaccurate and, at least by implication, insulting.

              There is no denying that the circumstances are controversial, but by saying “in what some deem to be controversial circumstances”, you attempt to dismiss even that. You are, effectively, saying everyone who purports to disagree with your own view is lying about their opinion (or, potentially, that everyone who agrees with you is lying about their opinion, though that would be a stretch), and therefore there isn’t actually any disagreement at all.

              Now, I am pretty sure you didn’t mean to say that, which is why I pointed it out to you in a reasonable and measured manner instead of taking offence.

            7. I don’t think so, @drmouse.
              Everyone is entitled to their opinion of whether it was controversial – not everyone thinks it was controversial and not everyone thinks that it really matters even if it was.

              I said “in what some deem to be controversial circumstances” because only some people do.
              Most people in the world don’t even know or care…

              I’m not sure how or why anyone would take offence, though….

            8. S

              Because your comment casually suggests that a couple of the ‘less knowledgeable’ around this site are the only ones with any concern for the almost ridiculous abuse of regulations. While you admit earlier, other resources are perhaps not your thing, even you could not have failed to notice that this issue is still be run in all F1 sites and most uk press?

            9. @S not to you, sry. It was the orange erik I was answering.

            10. How is it “opinion” that there is public disagreement about it? The public are disagreeing. There are regular arguments on here, on Facebook, in the press… That isn’t opinion, it is fact.

      2. If a senior Red Bull team member is still saying what he’s saying despite all those, then maybe he actually means it?

        Hehehehe – you must be joking. If you really think this isn’t because Masi handed them the biggest prize of all, then you probably missed what another senior Red Bull member said about Masi just a few weeks before Abu Dhabi.

        1. As I see it Wheatley is saying that with the right support and with a few changes Masi is well capable of doing the job…a job that he claims came with huge boots to fill once Whiting suddenly passed. Bigger boots than perhaps they realized. Hard to disagree with what Wheatley is saying here as it seems most teams would agree with this.

          I referenced to anon in a post above what Horner said after the penultimate race, in the heat of the moment, and I have no reason to think other than at this point in time Horner would echo what Wheatley is saying which is that the RD job is difficult, Masi could use support, they shouldn’t be able to inundate him with radio comm…all the things that everyone seems to be speculating will come about as of their meetings regarding AD.