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The FIA could decide to go against the wishes of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes by refusing to sack race director Michael Masi in the wake of last month’s hugely controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, according to reports. Masi has been widely criticised in the weeks since Max Verstappen clinched the Drivers’ Championship title under contentious circumstances at the Yas Marina Circuit for his role in shaping the eventual result.
Hamilton, who led for the vast majority of the race, was cruelly denied a record-breaking eighth title after Verstappen reaped the rewards of a late safety car period to clinch the honours on the final lap.
Masi handed the latter a golden opportunity to fight back when he was allowed to move through the field after only the five lapped cars between himself and Hamilton were asked to overtake the safety car.
The decision sparked plenty of post-race controversy as a result of the widely-held belief that all lapped cars would be required to un-lap themselves in such a situation.
Mercedes have reportedly issued a strong call for Masi’s dismissal ahead of the upcoming F1 season, with Hamilton still yet to make a decision on whether or not to return to the grid if the 44-year-old does not receive his marching orders.
It seems as though the seven-time champion could be left aggrieved by the FIA’s proposed resolution, suggesting that Mercedes’ ongoing dispute with the governing body could be set to continue into the new campaign and beyond.
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Senior FIA figures believe that Masi can stay in his post as part of a revamped structure with an experienced support team around him, according to the Daily Mail.
Meanwhile, others are said to be adamant that he must be sacked in order to save the sport’s reputation after the events that unfolded in Abu Dhabi.
The report claims that wide-ranging talks were held with Mercedes in London on Tuesday evening that were understood to be friendly and productive.
However, the two parties failed to reach any immediate conclusions over Masi’s future, while the possibility of Hamilton returning to the sport remains up in the air.
He is yet to speak on the matter after maintaining radio silence in the weeks since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and is unlikely to be satisfied with the FIA’s plans to put things right unless Masi is dismissed.
The organisation will announce the results of an investigation into the controversial race just two days before the start of the new season in March.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown recently urged the FIA not to assume that Hamilton will race again this year but suggested that he will be unable to resist another opportunity to seal a record-breaking eighth Drivers’ Championship title.
“I wouldn’t be shocked if he stopped, so I don’t think anyone should take for granted he’s coming back,” Brown told a press conference.
“My personal opinion is he’s going to [return] but I don’t think we should discount or not recognise his frustration, his anger.
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“I don’t think we should rule it out or make light of it. I just personally think he still has a burning desire to race and that will ultimately drive his decision.”
Brown also expressed his confidence in new FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem to handle the situation with care and due diligence after he was elected to replace Jean Todt at the end of last season.
“I’ve spent a good amount of time with him and I believe he will be a change agent where things need to be changed and improved upon,” added the McLaren boss.
“He also consults, he’s already done the rounds with the teams, talking to us about what we think. So I think he’s going to be a very good president.”
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