FIA says Wolff, Horner radios to Masi "neither necessary nor helpful"

The FIA has revealed the conversations between teams and former F1 race director Michael Masi at last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that it felt went too far.

FIA says Wolff, Horner radios to Masi "neither necessary nor helpful"
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As part of its detailed analysis into the controversial handling of the late race safety car at the 2021 season finale, it looked into the radio communications that Masi was facing in the key closing minutes.

In its report, it pulled out two discussions that took place with both the Red Bull and Mercedes teams.

On lap 56, the FIA highlighted a conversation between Masi, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, and Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley that took place when the message came through that lapped cars would not be allowed to overtake.

The conversation took place as follows:

Horner: Christian to Michael.

Masi: Yes, go ahead Christian.

Horner: Why aren't we getting these lapped cars out of the way?

Masi: Just give me... because Christian... just give me a second... OK, my main, big one is to get this incident clear.

Horner: You only need one racing lap.

Masi: Yeah.

Wheatley: Obviously, those lapped cars, you don't need to let them go... right away round and catch up with the back of the pack.

Masi: Understood.

Wheatley: You need to let them go....

Masi: Understood. Just give us a second.

Wheatley: …and then we've got a motor race on our hands.

Masi: Understood.

On the following lap, when five lapped drivers were told they could overtake, so clearing the cars between Verstappen and Hamilton, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff then radioed Masi.

Wolff: Michael…Michael, this isn't right. Michael, that is so not right. That is so not right.

Then immediately as the safety car returned to the pits, there was another message.

Wolff: He [VER] just overtook under safety car.

The FIA's report concluded that these two conversations had an impact in adding unwanted pressure on Masi during the critical moments, as well as serving to distract him from his job.

It stated: "The consensus of those involved in the detailed analysis and clarification exercise was that the respective communications to the Race Director by the Red Bull Racing and Mercedes Team Principals during the final laps of the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP had a negative impact on the smooth running of the final laps because they were distracting when the race director needed to focus on making difficult and time-pressured decisions."

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The FIA later added: "It was found that these communications were neither necessary nor helpful to the smooth running of the race.

"Rather, the consensus was that they add pressure to the Race Director at a critical time (i.e. at a time when the Race Director must simultaneously monitor the cars on the track, the deployment of the appropriate flags, and the progress of the marshals in clearing the track, and also liaise with the Clerk of the Course in relation to the end of the safety car period) and might seek to influence (whether directly or indirectly, or intentionally or unintentionally) the decisions made by the Race Director.

"With the foregoing in mind, the consensus of those involved in the detailed analysis and clarification exercise was that communications between (on one hand) F1 teams and (on the other hand) the Race Director during a race ought to be restricted so that the Race Director would be free to perform his/her crucial role without unnecessary disruption and distractions."

The FIA has changed its procedures for this year, with teams no longer having direct radio communication at all times with the race director.

Any conversations that do take place between the teams and race control will be done through another representative in race control, who will then forward on any important information to the race director.

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