F1: Ecclestone says race director Michael Masi was ‘overwhelmed’
Bernie Ecclestone has suggested that race director Michael Masi was ‘overwhelmed’ throughout the 2021 F1 season – though is adamant the right decisions were made in the controversial title decider in Abu Dhabi.
Masi has faced much scrutiny since the season finale which saw Max Verstappen overtake Lewis Hamilton on the last lap to be crowned champion for the first time.
The race director was criticized after only allowing cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves, before racing got back underway with the Dutchman on much fresher tires because the Mercedes team twice failed to bring Hamilton in for fresher tires. Mercedes blames Masi for Hamilton’s loss, but never admit it was their own error (failing to pit Hamilton during two separate caution periods for fresher tires) that cost Hamilton the race.
Masi initially made the call to not allow drivers to unlap themselves, before making a U-turn later on the penultimate lap – with five drivers between Hamilton and Verstappen allowed to pass the Brit.
Racing then got back underway with Verstappen making a daring lunge down the inside of Hamilton to take the race lead on the last lap, and ultimately the championship.
Ex-Formula One chief Ecclestone has told German publication BILD: ‘He was in many cases overwhelmed with his job the whole season and maybe shouldn’t have had it at all. But it was the right decision to let them race.’
Despite the controversial ending, Ecclestone felt it evened the score.
Speaking to Sky he referenced a first lap incident in which Hamilton went off the circuit following an overtaking attempt by Verstappen and kept the lead.
He said: ‘About being robbed, it’s complete and utter nonsense. If you want to think about it carefully, on the first lap of that race he [Hamilton] went off the circuit and came back on again and Verstappen stayed on the circuit and did absolutely nothing wrong.
‘Lewis wasn’t punished at all for that, so he shouldn’t be complaining too much. These things happen all the time in sports. We shouldn’t blame the race director, he did exactly what was the right thing to do.’