Toto Wolff slams “liability” Michael Masi, claims he disrespected drivers

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has accused former F1 race director Michael Masi of being a “liability” – and says that some drivers had reservations about him.

The FIA decided to sack Masi from his post in February. That decision came after a series of controversial decisions that Masi made at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021.

The race director allowed only certain lapped cars to unlap themselves under the late-race safety car, contrary to the sporting regulations. They state that any lapped cars should be allowed to overtake.

Read more: FIA announce new VAR-style race direction after Masi sacking

Masi also elected to call the safety car back into the pits on the same lap as his earlier call. Regulations state that this should only be done on the following lap.

The decisions culminated in a final lap title showdown between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. The Dutchman, who had been able to pit for fresh tyres during the safety car period, was able to overtake the Brit, who was on old rubber, to win his first Drivers’ Championship.

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Mercedes protested the result. In addition, many F1 fans made clear their anger at the FIA.

In March, the FIA released a report which investigated the events of Abu Dhabi. It concluded that “human error” was a factor in the result. The FIA confirmed that the result would stand and Verstappen would remain champion.

Toto Wolff goes on the attack towards Michael Masi

Toto Wolff
Image Credit: Getty

Toto Wolff has now claimed that Masi was a “liability” for Formula 1. In addition, he also suggested that drivers were not keen on the Australian’s manner. That was particularly notable during driver briefings.

He told PA (quotes via Autosport): “You hear from the drivers and how the drivers’ briefings were conducted [by Masi]. Some of the guys said it was almost disrespectful how he treated some of them.

“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 [Masi] was just immune to any feedback. 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. 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.”

Read: Toto Wolff aims huge dig at Jonathan Wheatley over Abu Dhabi finish

The Austrian also touched upon how, during one lunch meeting, he had to push Masi towards being more receptive to driver feedback.

“It is quite interesting because I had lunch with him on the Wednesday before the [Abu Dhabi] race,” Wolff began.

“I said to him, ‘I really want to tell you, without patronising you, that you need to take criticism on board and develop from there. 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.”

Has Michael Masi spoken out since his F1 sacking?

Michael Masi
Image Credit: Getty

Michael Masi has not made any public statement since his sacking as the F1 race director. When the news broke, the FIA confirmed that he would be offered another role within their organisation.

FIA president, Muhammad Ben Sulayem, told F1’s ‘Beyond The Grid‘ podcast in March: “[We wanted] to take the pressure and the stress from him, because he really went through a lot.

“We are grateful for the three years that he invested with us, and he put his time. But now we are negotiating with him, of course, to stay in the FIA.

“He is an important figure to us so our people are negotiating other, I would not say a job, but another place for him within the FIA.”

Meanwhile, Masi has been replaced by two new race directors. Niels Wittich has overseen the first three races of the 2022 season. He will alternate duties with former World Endurance Championship race director Eduardo Freitas.

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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc currently leads the 2022 Drivers’ Championship. He has two wins from three races. Mercedes have struggled for pace relative to Ferrari and Red Bull. However, they are second in the Constructors’ Championship. Hamilton and team-mate George Russell each have one podium finish to their names.

Featured Image Credit: Getty