“Of course it’s really uncomfortable, and a lot of people are unhappy: Hamilton fans, Mercedes fans…It’s not pretty for Formula 1 at all, but I don’t think this audio today changes the really uncomfortable narrative of what happened” – Martin Brundle regarding Michael Masi race audio
The transmissions between Masi and Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley, which occurred just before the controversial decision to allow lapped cars between title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to overtake, were made public by Formula 1 on December 16.
However, they were widely shared on Wednesday – just hours before Red Bull launched their new car for the 2022 season – and Brundle labelled it “really uncomfortable”, and the final race situation “hugely unacceptable”.
“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,” Brundle said regarding the audio between Wheatley and Masi.
“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: (Lewis) Hamilton fans, Mercedes fans.
The Michael Masi audio from the 2021 F1 season’s dramatic final stages was widely circulated on Wednesday
“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.
“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.
“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 today changes the really uncomfortable narrative of what happened.”
“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.
“You can’t unravel the result. Red Bull did nothing wrong, and Ferrari did nothing wrong in third place for example. You can’t penalise them.
“The FIA can only penalise themselves for getting it wrong on the day. Michael Masi got it wrong, due to a lot of circumstances.”
In a statement, the FIA said: “We are aware of this and it is part of the investigation.” The FIA is expected to release the findings of its investigation into the race to the F1 commission on Monday.
What is said in the the audio?
In the audio, Wheatley is heard to say: “Those lapped cars; you don’t need to let them go right the way around and catch up with the back of the pack. You only need to let them go, and then we’ve got a motor race on our hands.”
Masi replies: “Understood.”
After the race, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff tells Masi what he has done is “not right”.
Masi replies: “Toto, it’s called a motor race, OK?”
Masi, F1’s current Race Director, has been under immense scrutiny over his handling of 2021’s title-deciding Abu Dhabi GP and the late Safety Car that allowed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to catch and then usurp Lewis Hamilton to dramatically seal the title.
While he remains in position for now, an FIA inquiry into Abu Dhabi is ongoing and the sport’s governing body is expected to propose changes to how races are managed at the next F1 Commission meeting on February 14.