Michael Masi replaced as F1 race director after Abu Dhabi finale review

Following an analysis of last year’s Abu Dhabi title decider, a series of changes will be made to the way F1 races are refereed.

New FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has outlined a wide-reaching revamp of the way Formula 1 races are refereed, with Michael Masi removed as race director and a series of procedural changes ushered in.

Ben Sulayem’s revisions come into effect shortly ahead of the start of the 2022 F1 season and are largely a response to the controversial final lap of the 2021 season.

  • Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will serve as race directors
  • Masi will be offered a new role within the FIA
  • Direct radio communication to be restricted

F1 race direction changes

“Drawing conclusions from the detailed analysis of the events of the last F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and from the 2021 season, I proposed an in-depth reform of the organisation of refereeing and race direction. It was unanimously supported by F1 CEO and teams principals,” Ben Sulayem said.

One of the key elements of this system overhaul is the implementation of a Virtual Race Control Room, which Ben Sulayem likened to the video assistance referee (VAR) used in football. The race director will be able to use this to apply regulations in real-time, minimising the need for post-race reviews and hearings.

Masi will be offered a new role within the FIA. He will be replaced by ex-DTM race director Niels Wittich and WEC race director Eduardo Freitas on an alternating basis, assisted by former F1 deputy race director Herbie Blash.

A more direct response to last season’s Abu Dhabi finale is a review of the rules about drivers unlapping themselves behind the safety car. A final decision on these new rules has yet to be given but will be agreed prior to the start of the 2022 season.

F1 to restrict radio communication

F1 will also restrict direct radio communications during races “to protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully”. Teams can still communicate with the director, but via a more official and regulated process.

Ben Sulayem announced that his plan has the support of the World Motor Sport Council and the Senate.

He said: “These structural changes are crucial in a context of strong development and the legitimate expectations of drivers, teams, manufacturers, organisers and, of course, the fans.”

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