Newly-elected FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been handed a tough job in reviewing what occurred within the closing levels of the title decider between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, and taking motion to revive belief amongst F1 drivers, groups and followers within the governing physique.
The hints of change throughout the replace from the FIA ought to supply some encouragement, even when the timeline stays a supply of frustration for a lot of. Any choices or modifications might not obtain remaining approval from the World Motor Sport Council till 18 March, simply two days earlier than the brand new season begins in Bahrain.
However one determination that should arrive before that issues the way forward for the person on the centre of the furore: race director Michael Masi.
Masi’s name to restart the race with one lap remaining in Abu Dhabi sparked outcry from Mercedes after Hamilton was overtaken by Verstappen. Hamilton claimed over the radio after the race that it had been “manipulated”, whereas Mercedes launched a protest in opposition to the restart that was finally knocked again by the stewards.
The FIA’s pledge to research what occurred in Abu Dhabi put an finish to additional motion from Mercedes, who dropped its attraction plans however promised to carry F1’s governing physique to account.
As outlined on Thursday, the FIA’s assessment of Abu Dhabi will proceed subsequent week with the assembly of the Sporting Advisory Committee that features the groups, whereas Mercedes boss Toto Wolff additionally met with FIA president Sulayem on Friday.
Wolff stated after Mercedes ended its push to attraction the stewards’ ruling that each he and Hamilton have been “disillusioned” by what occurred in Abu Dhabi, and he hoped it might not trigger the seven-time world champion to stroll away.
It’s essential the FIA provides significant and clear solutions to Hamilton and Mercedes.
The replace on Thursday from the FIA didn’t present any concrete choices, notably regarding the future for Masi. Nevertheless it did reveal that secretary common for sport and recently-appointed single-seater director Peter Bayer would supply “proposals to assessment and optimise the organisation of the FIA F1 construction for the 2022 season”, hinting at change for the approaching 12 months.
Addressing the broader construction of the FIA’s F1 group would attain past merely doubtlessly changing Masi and appointing a brand new race director, a transfer that ex-F1 driver and present Sky Sports activities pundit Martin Brundle stated would “not fix the problem” as “it is approach too huge a job for one individual to deal with in a 23-race season”.
However even when the construction have been to alter and extra help have been to be given to the race director, it’s laborious to see a scenario the place Masi continues.
Michael Masi, Race Director, walks the monitor with an FIA colleague
Photograph by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Confidence in Masi has been misplaced by a lot of drivers and groups, as indicated to Autosport by sources within the paddock, as a result of occasions in Abu Dhabi and different choices taken throughout the remainder of the season.
The response to the Flip 4 battle between Hamilton and Verstappen in Brazil left some drivers unsure what was and was not permitted in on-track battles, whereas the dealing with of the incidents in Saudi Arabia additionally put race management within the highlight.
Masi has confirmed to be a likeable determine within the F1 paddock since taking over the function in 2019 following the sudden passing of Charlie Whiting. On a private degree, many could be sorry to see him depart. However there’s a feeling that if he continued within the function, future choices would all the time be overshadowed by what occurred in Abu Dhabi.
The problem for the FIA is who it might change Masi with, given the shortage of apparent replacements, which once more speaks to the necessity to restructure its F1 operations. Whiting made the function his personal for near 30 years, leaving unimaginable sneakers to fill. Because the calendar expands and the challenges develop larger, the stresses of the job will solely construct too.
Timing goes to be vital for the FIA because it considers its subsequent steps. It has outlined plans to speak with drivers and groups, the place the function of Masi and race management’s operations will certainly be up for dialogue.
A full evaluation and a few proposals can be introduced to the F1 Fee in February earlier than the World Motor Sport Council provides remaining approval on 18 March. It is necessary the FIA acts swiftly to make sure not less than some first steps are taken by the point the paddock reconvenes because it appears to be like to revive confidence.
The battle now for the FIA is to regain the belief it might have misplaced by Abu Dhabi, among the many drivers, groups, and, crucially, the followers. Deciding on Masi’s future and what any restructuring of its F1 group entails can be an vital a part of that.