Lewis Hamilton’s prolonged silence after the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix played a part in Michael Masi’s dismissal as F1 race director, says Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko. Hamilton was beaten by Max Verstappen in a dramatic and contentious F1 championship finale back in December, with his arch-rival pipping him on the final lap despite a late safety car emerging after a Nicholas Latifi crash.
The finish sparked huge outrage amongst fans on social media, who felt F1 officials subjected the Brit to unjust treatment and cost him another world-title triumph in the process. As a result of the controversy, the FIA decided to remove Masi from his position as F1 race director and undergo a revamp, bringing in WEC race director Eduardo Freitas and ex-DTM race director Niels Wittich to replace him on a rotating basis.
The pair will be supported in their role by Permanent Senior Advisor Herbie Blash as well as a control room of assistants. Since the decision was made, the Red Bull team have leapt to the defence of the axed Masi on several occasions, with Verstappen insisting he was ‘thrown under the bus’ by racing chiefs. And now Marko has taken aim at Hamilton,
Claiming he should take responsibility for Masi’s departure after choosing not to speak out on last season’s finale for close to two months. ‘By his silence, he only wanted to show his dissatisfaction with the situation and the decisions,’ he told RTL, via Planet F1. ‘Part of that behaviour subsequently also led to Masi being removed from his role.
‘I don’t think it’s right. You have to look at his performances over the years. ‘If Masi had everything they are going to enter now at his disposal, it would have been easier for him to decide, a video referee and an advisor by his side.’ ‘Michael is now being sacrificed for that.’ Hamilton’s silence in the New Year led to widespread speculation over his future in the sport, which only became more rife when Mercedes boss Toto Wolff hinted that he could walk away.
But Marko believes that option was never a realistic possibility because Mercedes were not planning for such a significant exit. ‘There were clear indications that Hamilton would not stop because there was no movement in the driver market,’ the Red Bull chief added. ‘If Hamilton had informed Mercedes that he would take a step back, they would have started looking for a replacement en masse. However, that was not the case. not noticeable.’