Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing
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Lewis Hamilton’s request for the FIA to sack race director Michael Masi is a view shared by a number of drivers on the grid following three notorious calls in 2021. Masi’s position is believed to be under review amid an investigation into the controversial events that unfolded at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with results set to be confirmed by the World Motorsport Council on 18 March – two days before the start of the 2022 season in Bahrain.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff reportedly met with new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem on Friday to discuss the events of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Wolff allegedly demanded Masi is sacked as Hamilton is considering his future after Red Bull star Max Verstappen secured a maiden world title in controversial circumstances.
The Dutchman passed the seven-time world champion – who had dominated for much of the race – on the final lap of the season as a late Safety Car and tyre change swung momentum in his favour.
Mercedes’ fury was largely aimed at Masi after he decided to not allow cars to unlap themselves, as is tradition, only to change his mind to set up the final lap showdown between Hamilton and Verstappen.
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The Silver Arrows allegedly only dropped their appeal against the results of the race after agreeing a deal with the FIA, which said both Masi and FIA head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis would be removed from their posts ahead of the 2022 season.
Masi’s approach in the finale has been heavily criticised, with Hamilton suggesting over radio that it was ‘rigged’.
Team principal Wolff said last month that Mercedes would ‘hold the FIA to account’ – and Secretary General for Motorsport Peter Bayer announced he would make ‘proposals to review and optimise the organisation of the FIA Formula 1 structure for the 2022 season’.
Even if the system is redefined to grant Masi more help, it is difficult to see the Australian retaining his job amid the intense scrutiny.
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Events that unfolded in the latter part of the season, including Abu Dhabi, have reportedly led drivers and teams to lose faith in Masi.
For example, the aftermath of the battle between Hamilton and Verstappen at Turn 4 in Brazil left people confused regarding the rules surrounding wheel-to-wheel racing on the track.
The controversial and dramatic scenes at the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix are also criticised and used as evidence against Masi.
While the 44-year-old is a likeable personality around the paddock, there are concerns Masi’s future will always be tainted by the events in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton and Mercedes team members did not conduct any other media interviews after the season. The Brit, who was knighted at Windsor Castle following the season, is yet to post on his social media accounts since the events of 12 December 2021.
Asked about whether Hamilton will retire ahead of the 2022 campaign, Ben Sulayem said: “No, I don’t think he will [quit].
“I’ll ask your question, did Lewis declare that he’s not going to race? No. Exactly. Being a driver, you declare yourself, you don’t let the rumours [talk].
“I’m confident that Lewis [will return]. Lewis is a big part of motorsport, and of course of Formula 1, the new era [can add to] Lewis’s wins and achievements, and also Verstappen is there.
“I am very confident that you will see a very challenging Formula 1 season next year.”
The 23-race 2022 campaign begins on March 18-20, with winter testing for the all-new generation of cars underway from February 23.
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