Sky F1's Martin Brundle says a portion of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix radio exchange between Red Bull and Michael Masi that resurfaced this week makes for "really uncomfortable" listening for F1 and is "hugely unacceptable"
The audio involves a communication from Red Bull sporting Jonathan Wheatley to F1's race director in the closing stages of the last December's title decider between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, during the crucial safety car period.
"Those lapped cars… you don't need to let them go right the way around and catch up with the back of the pack," Wheatley told Masi.
"You only need to let them go, and then we've got a motor race on our hands."
The Aussie responded with one word: "Understood".
The reply was followed shortly later by an intervention by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff who said that Masi's decision to allow only the cars positioned between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves was "not right", to which the race director answered: "Toto, it’s called a motor race, OK?"
While the audio was released by F1 back in December, it appears that it went unnoticed until this week, when F1 fans on Twitter promoted the exchange and triggered a buzz that has reignited the controversy surrounding last year's the events in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking to Sky, Brundle says the radio exchange isn't new, but admits that perception of the communication is "really uncomfortable" for F1 fans.
"It's not new news, and also I think you have to understand that it's not necessarily telling Michael Masi something he didn't already know," said the Sky commentator.
"Let's not assume it's giving Masi information he didn't already know in terms of what he could and couldn't do in terms of the lapped pack.
"Of course, it's really uncomfortable, and a lot of people are unhappy: Hamilton fans, Mercedes fans...
"And you don't even have to be a Lewis Hamilton fan to think that forever he should be an eight-time world champion, because, for me, the really crucial regulation that wasn't carried out was that the safety car should have come in at the end of the following lap.
"But we also know that unwritten rules and meetings, which shouldn't supersede anything, were: 'let's try not to have a race finish behind the safety car'.
"Hugely unacceptable. I met so many fans that were new to Formula 1 last year particularly, and fans in general, that were hugely upset by what happened."
This is shocking. New emerging footage of @F1 Abu Dhabi GP containing previously unheard radio. Masi essentially executed the instructions of Jonathan Wheatley (Red Bull) without any second thought over its legality or fairness. This should be sickening listening to any fan. pic.twitter.com/XkOWmjGhH0
— Jordan ¹⁰³ (@F1_Jordan) February 8, 2022
The FIA has initiated a full investigation into F1's finale in Abu Dhabi, the outcome of which should see a raft of changes to the race director's structure and decision procedures.
For Brundle, one of the main consequences of the controversy at Yas Marina will be the inability for team principals in the future to lobby F1's race director in the heat of the moment.
"We cannot - and we know it's going to change - have teams getting at the referee while he's trying to make critical decisions with cars on the track and marshals and breakdown vehicles," added the former F1 driver.
"The car was on fire at certain times. He's trying to manage that and he's getting lobbied left, right and centre. You can imagine that on the football ground or rugby ground is completely unacceptable. And that will change.
"It's not pretty for Formula 1 at all, but I don't think this audio changes the really uncomfortable narrative of what happened."
Although the FIA has yet to decide Masi's fate, Brundle believes it will be difficult for the Aussie to retain his position in F1 as race director.
"I made a comment that changing Michael Masi won't fix the problem, meaning that it's way too big a job for one person," said the Briton.
"That doesn't mean to say I'm in full support for Michael Masi. I think he'll struggle to keep that position.
"The trouble is that the spotlight will be on him, and every single decision will be analysed.
"What happens if Lewis is up for a penalty? Will he be lenient on that? I think he's in an untenable situation."