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Michael Masi: Formula 1 race director replaced after controversial 2021 season finale

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By AP  with Euronews
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Michael Masi was appointed Formula One race director at the start of the 2019 season.
Michael Masi was appointed Formula One race director at the start of the 2019 season.   -   Copyright  NHAC NGUYEN / AFP, FILE

Michael Masi has been removed as Formula One’s race director following last year's controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The President of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) confirmed on Thursday that Masi would be replaced for the 2022 season.

The former race director was criticised following the title-deciding Grand Prix in the United Arab Emirates, which eventually saw Max Verstappen crowned F1 champion.

Decisions over the use of a safety car on the final lap of the race allowed Verstappen -- the Netherlands and Red Bull driver -- to overtake Lewis Hamilton and deny Mercedes' British driver a record eighth championship. Mercedes lodged two protests over the race ending but have since lost both.

The FIA had stated that the sport’s image had been tarnished as a result of the controversial decision.

“A new race management team will be put in place starting in Barcelona for the test session,” President Mohammed Ben Sulayem said in a statement, after a detailed inquiry into the season finale.

Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will act alternatively as race director, assisted by Herbie Blash as a permanent senior advisor.

The 44-year-old Masi will be offered a new position within the FIA, he added.

The governing body said it would also prevent direct radio communications between the race director and teams from being broadcast live on television.

This will allow decisions to be made "peacefully" and in a "well-defined and non-intrusive process," Ben Sulayem said.

The changes were announced ahead of the launch of Mercedes' new F1 car for the 2022 season, where Hamilton is set to speak publicly for the first time since Abu Dhabi.