The fallout from last year’s controversial Formula 1 championship finale has continued, with Red Bull chief Christian Horner accusing rival team Mercedes of behaviour ‘tantamount to bullying’, ahead of the ousting of Formula One race
Red Bull’s star driver finished the season eight points clear of his rival, seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton. But the aftermath of the final race has proved almost as dramatic as the race itself.
The Australian Masi was in the chair as race director for the decisive final contest in Abu Dhabi.
During the race, both Horner and his Mercedes counterpart, Toto Wolff, were repeatedly on the radio to Masi, pressuring him to make decisions in their teams’ favour.
In the final laps of the race, Masi altered the rules over the use of a Safety Car and the timing of a race restart.
The director ordered some, not all of the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to get out of the way following a crash involving Williams driver Nicholas Latifi.
This allowed time for the grand prix to resume for one lap of racing rather than end under the Safety Car.
The restart allowed the Dutchman, who was on fresh tyres, to catch and pass Hamilton — who was on worn tyres — and go on to clinch the world title.
Mercedes appealed Masi’s decision but it was not upheld.
In the wash-up of the event, Hamilton refused to commit to racing in Formula 1 for 2022 until he had seen the result of the FIA’s inquiry into the race.
“Was it right to fire him based on pressure that was placed on him from a rival team? That for me was wrong,” Horner told BBC Sport.
“That’s tantamount to bullying. It’s passively aggressive.”
The changes announced also involve the establishment of a Virtual Race Control Room, outside the race circuit, similar to football’s VAR.
F1’s unlapping procedures will also be looked at, with a new set-up put to the F1 Commission for agreement before the start of the new season — and radio communications during the race, which are currently broadcast, will not be available, in order to protect the race director from pressure.
Speaking separately with BBC 5 Live Radio, Horner said that Masi had not broken any rules.
“He applied them in a way that they hadn’t been done previously, leaving two lapped cars at the back of the field — but that’s the only variance of what is normal practice,” he said.
“That was not our fault — the safety car came out, we reacted strategically correctly, we pitted.
“Mercedes didn’t — they left Lewis (out there) on 44 lap-old tyres, and Max obviously had to get the job done on one lap.”