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Lewis Hamilton was said to be left ‘astonished’ by reports that former FIA race director Michael Masi could return to a fresh role. The governing body’s president, Mohammed ben Sulayem, revealed last week that the door was open for Masi’s controversial comeback.
An interview given by Ben Sulayem has apparently stunned Hamilton into making ‘urgent phone calls’. The Mercedes ace felt robbed of a world title last year after Masi made a contentious decision towards the culmination of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Australian was sacked from his position as race director following the event. Hamilton was leading title rival Max Verstappen, only for a safety car to be deployed on the track.
Masi controversially allowed five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap before the final lap was started. Verstappen, on fresher, softer tyres, overtook Hamilton to win the race and the world championship.
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The departure of Masi came after pressure from senior figures at Mercedes. However, Ben Sulayem told the Daily Mail last week: “Michael is there and we might use him. We are open to everything.”
The same publication has reported that Hamilton and his closest advisers were left ‘astonished’ by the revelation. Almost as soon as the story broke, the seven-times world champion urgently messaged those around him to discuss the news.
Masi’s sacking was seen as a victory for Mercedes, with team principal Toto Wolff publicly backing the dismissal. Masi was replaced by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who have alternated in the role for the first five races of the 2022 season.
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However, upon announcing Masi’s departure as part of sweeping structural changes earlier this year, Ben Sulayem did suggest that he would be offered a new role within the FIA. A February statement by the president read: “Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three years as Formula 1 race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA.”
Wolff recently revealed that he had lunch with Masi the week before last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Hamilton and Verstappen were incredibly level on points heading into the event and the stakes were high.
The Austrian told the Press Association in April: “I had lunch with [Masi] on the Wednesday before the race. I said to him that, ‘I really want to tell you, without patronising you, that you need to take criticism on board and develop from there. Lewis does it every day, but you are 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.”
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