Red Bull's Wheatley: Masi up to the job, with 'the right support'

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Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley says contested FIA race director Michael Masi is "more than capable" of doing his job in the future, with the right support.

Masi's management of the crucial Safety Car period that marred the end of F1's finale in Abu Dhabi in December and his decision to by-pass the normal procedure regarding lapped cars and relaunch the race with one lap to go, handed the title on a silver platter to Red Bull's Max Verstappen to the detriment of Lewis Hamilton.

But by overriding the standard procedure regarding the Safety Car process, Masi put himself and the governing body in the eye of a storm that has blown away much both the FIA's credibility and the trust bestowed upon him by many of F1's competitors.

One aspect of F1's epilogue at Yas Marina that has been widely commented is the live radio communication that took place between Masi and the team principals of Mercedes and Red Bull, with the latter lobbying their cause with the FIA official in the heat of the moment.


In hindsight, Wheatley believes the radio exchanges between the teams and Masi - not only in Abu Dhabi but also earlier in the season - should not be broadcasted to the public. He explained why.

"I personally think it was a mistake to broadcast it," the Red Bull sporting director said on a recent podcast.

"In Michael Masi, we have a precocious talent in that hopefully he will fill Charlie Whiting’s shoes. Charlie left a massive hole in the FIA in terms of that particular role.

"I think we (F1's teams) have supported Michael, and Michael has helped us. We have worked together in a collaborative fashion and that has worked out really well. The trouble is that collaborative fashion dies a death when it’s broadcast.

"There were situations when I got a bit frustrated and said things I shouldn’t have said. I’m not media-facing and it’s a nerdy level of understanding the sporting regulations that I didn’t think anyone would benefit from.

"More than that, I did think at some point the team principals would take over that channel, because the pressure is too important not to. These decisions are too important.

"The other thing is you can say ‘that’s not the regulation we should be following’ or perhaps ‘should we not be doing it this way?’ and of course you can’t have those conversations with the race director if they’re going to be broadcast."


Despite the controversy surrounding Masi, whose fate as F1's race director is set to be decided by the FIA's thorough investigation into the events that took place in Abu Dhabi, the results of which will be known in March, Wheatley believes the Aussie should remain in his position, under the condition that he is offered "the right support" from the FIA to lighten the burden of his responsibilities.

"I think the FIA were slow to realise just what a big pair of shoes that would be to fill," said Wheatley. "I think Michael with the right support is more than capable of doing that.

"On a personal level he’s a really nice guy with no edge to him at all, and he listens and tries to do the very best he can. But in Charlie we lost a behemoth of the sport.

"It’s very difficult for the FIA to fill that with one role. It looks like the new FIA president is taking that very seriously and looking to put support in exactly where it’s needed."

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