Mercedes, Toto Wolff criticizes former race director Michael Masi

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has fired a new shot in the direction of ex-Australian Formula 1 race director, Michael Masi, calling him a “liability for the sport”.

Masi was ultimately held responsible for the controversial ending to last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which orchestrated a final lap shootout between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for the world championship.

To prevent the title-decider from finishing behind a safety car, Masi mishandled race restart procedures which at the checkered flag benefited Verstappen on fresher tires and denied Hamilton a record-breaking eighth F1 world title.

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After an inquiry into the events, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem announced that Masi would be sacked as race director, with a new stewards system coming into effect for the 2022 season.

Speaking with the Press Association at the Australian Grand Prix, Wolff criticized Masi for rejecting constructive feedback in the role and failing to admit his fault.

“It is quite interesting because I had lunch with him (Masi) on the Wednesday before the race (in Abu Dhabi), and I said to him that ‘I really want to tell you, without patronizing you, that you need to take criticism on board and develop from there’,” he said.

“‘Lewis (Hamilton) does it every day, but you are the guy who always seems to know better.’

“It wasn’t about influencing him but really giving my honest feedback that he shouldn’t block outside opinion as simply being wrong.”

Wolff also claimed Masi was disrespectful to some drivers and race promoters.

“You hear from the drivers and how the drivers’ briefings were conducted (by Masi) and some of the guys said it was almost disrespectful how he treated some of them,” he said.

“There is a promoter of one of the races in the Middle East who said he was so relieved he had gone because he got so much abuse from him.

“He was just immune to any feedback and even today he has not properly reflected that he did something wrong.

“He was a liability for the sport because everybody kept talking about Abu Dhabi and the race director, and the race director should not be somebody that people talk about, but someone who does the job and makes sure the race is run according to the regulations .”

New race directors Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who now share the role, made waves in the paddock last week after reviving a bizarre regulation which bars the wearing of body piercings, metal chains and jewelery when competing.

Strangely, the order almost entirely impacts Hamilton as the only driver on the grid to wear such jewellery.

Wolff was generally positive about the two alternate race directors but questioned the ruling.

“How he has run the first few races has been respectful, solid and he hasn’t put a single foot wrong,” said Wolff.

“But is that (jewelry ban) a battle he needs to have at this stage?

“However, if it turns out to be the biggest unfortunate misstep of a race director, I would take it a thousand times over.”

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