Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina, 2021

Masi says he received “death threats” over months after Abu Dhabi controversy

2021 F1 season

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Formula FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi has revealed he received death threats in the months which followed his controversial decision which swung the outcome of last year’s world championship in Abu Dhabi.

The FIA confirmed earlier this month Masi had left the organisation. He was replaced as race director after it found he made an “error” in his decision to arrange a final-lap restart of the race at Yas Marina.

Masi’s decision to only allow a portion of the drivers to un-lap themselves contravened the FIA’s rules and handed Max Verstappen an unexpected opportunity to pass Lewis Hamilton to win the race and clinch the world championship. In an interview for Australia’s Daily Telegraph, which states Masi has signed a non-disclosure agreement with the FIA which prevents him from discussing the decision, he described the abuse he received in the wake of the controversy.

He said he received “hundreds” of messages on social media immediately after the race, and many more in the months which followed, some of which included death threats and racist abuse.

“Thankfully, I don‘t have an Instagram account or Twitter,” said Masi. “I don’t have any of that.

“Being old-school I do however have Facebook, which I used to stay in touch with family and friends. I opened my messages that night to check in with them. I had no idea that I could receive them from people I did not know. But I was wrong. I was confronted with hundreds of messages. I wouldn’t say thousands but certainly hundreds.

“And they were shocking. Racist, abusive, vile, they called me every name under the sun. And there were death threats. People saying, they were going to come after me and my family.

“And they kept on coming. Not just on my Facebook but also on my LinkedIn, which is supposed to be a professional platform for business. It was the same type of abuse.”

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Masi said he “thought I would ignore it and get on with it because I knew it could take me to a very dark place” at first. “I tried to cut myself off mentally, and I thought I could.”

Report: FIA publishes Abu Dhabi findings, confirms Masi made errors but states result will stand
“I mostly kept it all to myself,” he added. “I told a few people but not many. I didn’t want to concern my family and friends. I didn’t want them worrying too. The FIA knew but I think I downplayed it all to everyone including them.”

The barrage of abuse made Masi fear for his personal safety. “Walking down the street in London a day or two later I thought I was okay until I started looking over my shoulder. I was looking at people wondering if they were going to get me.”

He described the physical and mental effect the abuse had on him. “I didn’t want to talk to anyone, not even family and friends,” said Masi. “I only talked to my close family – but very briefly.

“I also lost my appetite. I have heard some people become binge eaters during times like this but I didn’t eat much. It did have a physical impact, but it was more mental.”

Although he “didn‘t go and talk to a professional” about what he was going through, Masi said “with the benefit of hindsight, I probably should have. I should have gone and spoken to someone in a professional sense.

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(L to R), Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022
Analysis: The omission in the FIA’s Abu Dhabi report which may store up trouble for the future
“But in saying that, I had some amazing people around me that could see it and were checking in daily. I was super fortunate to have that support network.”

Having returned to his native Australia following his departure from the FIA, Masi is now considering his next career move.

“The whole experience has made me a much stronger person,” he said. “I have a number of exciting options going forward. I am considering a number of different projects, both domestic and globally. My intention is to base myself out of Australia and to use all the skills I have gained in what has been an incredible journey so far and one I am extremely proud and thankful for.”

Yesterday F1 launched a new campaign, “Drive it Out”, intended to tackle abusive behaviour and messages online and at races.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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87 comments on “Masi says he received “death threats” over months after Abu Dhabi controversy”

  1. #DriveItOut Oh, wait… Latifi and Masi are white males, who cares they received death threats (from those pesky Dutch Verstappen fans, I’m sure!)! Only females and “minorities” matter!

    1. Or alternatively it is being reported because it is seen as a relevant story.

  2. He certainly did Drive It Out. Right out of his own job…

  3. Somebody greased his palms for the result. Imagine all the punters that made millions.

    1. That theory, which I don’t believe anyone has ever offered any evidence to back up, was quashed in the FIA report.

      1. Kangaroo courts and sham of investigation like we saw 1997, post Singapore GP 08, etc… FIA doing everything to save its skin.

      2. The FIA investigating itself, sounds totally legit to me….

      3. @keithcollantine The same one that made a number of blatantly false claims (including that the result could not be changed, when by the FIA’s own regulations it had to be)? At this point, offering the FIA report as evidence for anything regarding Abu Dhabi 2021 is not going to help any point to be made. (Although I also doubt any money changed hands, that is based on other evidence and cannot credibly use the report to support that doubt).

    2. I think people try to overcomplicate the story. Masi made a mistake under pressure, in the heat of the moment, that’s all. A big mistake, for sure, which contradicted the rules and his own history of SC decisions. But in the end it was just a mistake. He tried to “go racing” under pressure from Redbull, and in doing that while bypassing the SC procedure, he took away from Hamilton the chance to have Mercedes’ strategy paying off by keeping position by finishing under the SC. So Max “won”. It’s definitely a stain in the history of the sport, but nothing justifies the death threats that he and Latifi received. That’s not compatible with a civil and peaceful society.

      1. @André Masi didn’t made a mistake, he cheated. He knew what he was doing and he knew the rules, he could easily pull a red flag but he knew that Lewis would have had fresh tyres as well and he was faster than Max the whole race. They simply wanted Max as “champ” no matter what, hence we heard nothing from Perez’s DNF who was underfueled of course.

    3. Masi isn’t corrupt, he is just an idiot who didn’t follow the rules he himself explained to the media in French GP 2020.

    4. Laughable, slanderous, and as Keith said, absolutely disproven. You’re probably the kind of bloke that believes the moon landing was faked haha

  4. I wonder how much of the Toto whining at Abu Dhabi contributed to this behaviour? These ‘fans’ haven’t got much brain capacity, so must be very easy to influence. Good thing they allready stopped the radio messages from the teams to the FIA being broadcast. This definitely adds fuel to a fire.
    I also wonder if DTS and the (incorrect) portraing of some drivers and/or rivalries contribute to this?
    F1 is a sport, trying maybe a bit to hard to be a show. Maybe time to let it just be a sport again? Maybe better for the health of a lot of people around the sport?

    1. None, as far as I’m concerned. You can whine and stir the pot as much as you like, there is not a single excuse to sit at your desk and type death threats to anyone.

    2. I wouldn’t be surprised if 99% of those threats were made by people who didn’t even know there was a race on and just jumped in on the feeding frenzy cause they are the saddest most vile people who now have a way to anonymously get there kicks. Sort of people who live in there Mums basement in there underpants eating cheese out the packet.

    3. This has nothing to do with Toto. In fact he was right to feel aggrieved, because a title was taken away from Hamilton unfairly. The rules were not properly followed, by the man who should have executed it by the book. That was not a racing incident which is part of the sport, but a direct, black on white, contravening of the SC procedure. That’s not equivalent to a tyre blowout.

    4. Firing Masi for his incomeptence last season was the first step in trying to be more of a sport and less of a show. So they are in the right path at least.

  5. Masi’s decision to only allow a portion of the drivers to un-lap themselves contravened the FIA’s rules and handed Max Verstappen an unexpected opportunity to pass Lewis Hamilton to win the race and clinch the world championship.

    This is a misrepresentation of the facts.
    I’m disappointed you keep doing this on this site.
    The incorrect application only disadvantages Sainz (read the report) as he still had lapped cars in front of him. It did not (directly) impact the fight between Hamilton and Verstappen.

    And I’m not repeating this because I’m supporting Verstappen (I actually think that Hamilton should have won that race). I’m just disappointed that this site keeps on repeating the wrong storyline.
    Not sure if you do it because you’re British and supporting Hamilton, or if it’s to constantly stir up the readers and get a repeat of the toxic comments.
    Both are wrong IMO.

    1. Thank you!

      1. The paragraph says the incorrect application of the rules allowed verstappen an unexpected opportunity to pass hamilton, which is entirely correct, had the rules been applied correctly, and all cars unlap themselves, the safety car would have had to do another lap an thus race end under the safety car. Thus no unexpected opportunity for verstappen to make a pass.

        How is this disucssion even still a thing.

        1. had the rules been applied correctly, and all cars unlap themselves, the safety car would have had to do another lap an thus race end under the safety car.

          You don’t know, I don’t know, the writer of this article doesn’t know, even my aunt with balls doesn’t know.

          1. Stop being flippant this is entirely correct, there was not enough time to allow all the cars to unlap before starting the final lap which would then have ended the race. The decision was taken explicitly to allow Verstappen a chance to overtake outside of the scope of the rules on safety car restarts. It was well established logistically at the time and spinning falsehoods about it only makes you appear deeply uninformed and arrogant.

          2. there was not enough time to allow all the cars to unlap before starting the final lap

            I know you and others want to believe that, but it is totally ignoring the obvious facts.
            5 cars unlapped themselves between turn 8 & 9 (which took 11s), the 3 remaining cars could easily have unlapped themselves between turn 9 and 10, or even up to turn 11 or 12. The SC period lasted another 50s between the last unlapping and before racing started again.
            The circuit has 16 turns, thus more than enough time for the SC to be called in after that (I’ve mentioned before this race that they should always do it like this rather than unnecessarily prolong it).

        2. The race stewards thought otherwise, tough. As I have already stated time and again, Article 48.13 of the rules overrides the safety car having to do another lap, as the stewards confirmed after the race. Letting Ric, Stroll and Mick also unalp themselves wouldn’t have magically forced the race director to finish under safety car conditions.

          So yeah. How is this discussion even still a thing.

          1. “The FIA has admitted that Michael Masi contravened rules in last year’s controversial F1 finale”

            How is this discussion still a thing.

          2. “The FIA has admitted that Michael Masi contravened rules in last year’s controversial F1 finale”

            Yes, in the sense that jff has already elaborated. Not in the sense you still want to believe in.

    2. It is not a misinterpretation in context, while you’re correct that it only hurt Sainz in theory, in reality there was no time to unlap everybody and finish the race under a green flag(Masi’s stated intention, which nobody has an issue with), so the only intended result of the incorrect application was to allow *only Max* a chance to overtake without having to go through lapped cars. Incidentally this is exactly what Red Bull had asked Masi to do on radio. If any correct and fair rules interpretation had been followed Lewis would have likely won. Red Bull and Masi must have known that. There’s simply no way it wasn’t blatant thievery of a race and championship.

    3. I mean, I get the point you are trying to get across but the fact Sainz had lapped cars between himself and Verstappen did affect the fight between Verstappen and Hamilton. Regardless of driver talent and car differences, the fact Verstappen didn’t have a car behind that could directly challenge him on restart after the SC means that he could solely focus on attack which some would class as an advantage.

      I wish everyone could really just move on from it as recent events have shown that people are just creating such a negative atmosphere that shouldn’t be accepted.

      1. I fully agree with you, and also with the moving on.

        Therefore, I find it so disappointing that Keith always includes that one (misleading) line whenever he mentions Masi.

      2. In the spirit of fairness, you are absolutely right. But in reality, nobody can actually kid themselves that Sainz had any chance in a slower Ferrari on 18 laps-old mediums against the faster Red Bull on brand new softs. Sainz couldn’t even find his way past Ricciardo in the last lap, because of the stage of his tyres.

        But I also absolutely agree with the moving on part.

        1. @palagyi It only needed to be for 4 corners. It was entirely plausible.

          1. Well, Sainz tried, but it didn’t happen for 16 corners even against the weaker of Mclarens. So that’s that.

    4. Wrong. If Masi allowed all the cars to unlap like he was supposed to, the race would have finished before Max could have an opportunity to attack Hamilton. That is why Keith is right to call it an “unexpected opportunity”, because there wouldn’t have been time for that to happen.

      If they were more laps remaining, you would have been correct, as there would be time to unlap all the cars and then resume the race under green. As it was Masi’s screwup gave Max that chance.

      1. because there wouldn’t have been time for that to happen.

        There was more than enough time, see comment above.
        Just check the final SC lap for yourself.

    5. jff, your claim is false, quite a few people were disadvantaged by the move (depending on which of the two legal options had been applied, some different people would have been disadvantaged, but Sainz wasn’t the only one who lost out on either legitimate version). Simply because you don’t care about the entire field doesn’t mean pretending they don’t exist is valid.

      If you are seriously claiming that FIA misconduct does not matter and everyone should pretend Verstappen is champion, then you are claiming nobody should watch F1 at all. Becuase you’re claiming the FIA should just state who they want to be champion at the beginning and then nobody would need to race. It’s the very disrespect you are claiming those who believe that Abu Dhabi 2021 needed (and still needs) to be resolved within the regulations are displaying.

      1. I understand that you don’t like the outcome, but that doesn’t make my claim false.
        Yes, of course the lead lap drivers behind Sainz were disadvantaged as well, but the continuous misrepresentation is that Hamilton was disadvantaged (or Verstappen advantaged), which is pertinently not true according to the Stewards and the formal report.

        I don’t like the race proceeding/outcome either (never been a fan of SCs), and to me Hamilton should’ve won that race. But there is nothing wrong in my claim (read it again).
        This site, should stop stirring the pot with incorrect representations of the facts.

        And whenever I see this ‘stirring’ again, I’ll speak up.
        This site can be (and has been) better than that.

  6. Great… that’s one evidence down. We may never know the truth.

    1. I still believe the FIA and Liberty told Mercedes and Red Bull to deliberately make the championship go down to the last race when either of them could have won it earlier.

      1. What?

        Do you mean like in Baku when ‘Hamilton’s ‘magic’ button saved Verstappen’ effectly give up on a championship defining 25 points?

        Nah, there’s no one anyone would concieve a plan to control the narative of the season, with only the promise of a close run victory. Its not like this is Hollywood.

        1. Saved Verstappen?
          Max had a tyre blow out and lost a ‘championship defining’ 25 points, a situation completely unfortunate and out of his hands. Lewis on the other hand produced an unforced human error under pressure.

          1. Fred Fedurch
            31st July 2022, 12:43

            I’m surprised your post has been up for a couple of hours and none of the Hamfosi on here have pulled anything out of their “I have an excuse for that” folder and posted a retort in response to your unforced human error under pressure comment.

          2. 8 hours and counting. Still nothing….

      2. @krichelle LOL. Of course, entirely unfounded theory.

  7. There is no excuse for this, and no one should ever be subjected to things of this nature.

    That’s all.

  8. I opened my messages that night to check in with them. I had no idea that I could receive them from people I did not know. But I was wrong.

    This is where the problems lie. Why on earth do these social media sites allow people to send messages to those who are not their ‘friends’ (or whatever the word is on social media)?

    Some people are just awful and there is nothing that any Drive It Out campaign can do about that, but this is not a new occurrence in Formula 1; in 1994, Damon Hill received an anonymous phone call at Hockenheim telling him he would be shot if he beat Schumacher in the race. But that was just one case because it was more difficult to send a message to Damon Hill in those days. The big problem is that social media allows horrible people to actually express their opinions directly to those involved like Masi so easily and he can receive hundreds of death threats in just one night (thank goodness he doesn’t have Twitter or Instagram otherwise it would have been hundreds of thousands).

    1. @f1frog

      in 1994, Damon Hill received an anonymous phone call at Hockenheim telling him he would be shot if he beat Schumacher in the race

      Thanks for the story, never heard of it before.

      1. @f1frog @tifoso1989 And from memory I think the threat was taken seriously enough at the time that the local police offered Damon extra police protection over that weekend.

        1. @stefmeister
          Thanks for the additional info !

    2. @f1frog Because some people want to use it that way. Indeed, that was the original point of Facebook – so that college students could find each other again even if they weren’t personal friends.

      Of course, social media should make it clear what option they have switched on and how to change them, and in the 2020s there is no excuse for Facebook continuing to be opaque about this.

  9. F1 journalists still dont understand what happened in Abu Dhabi.
    1. Masi allowed only 3 cars to unlap themselves (between Hamilton and Verstappen), but not the onces in front of Sainz.
    2. Masi allowed to Safety car to enter the pit 1 lap early (even though the Safety car should have come in “the following lap AFTER the lapped cars unlapped themselves).
    thus handing Verstappen the opportunity on a silver platter to pass Hamilton in the last lap.

    1. thank you

    2. 2) is fully according to the rules. It’s mentioned over and over again, and was explained in the FIA report to be legitimate.
      You can easily find it yourself in the rules and in the (summary of the) FIA. report.

      1. 2) is against the regulations as they stood at the time of Abu Dhabi 2021. Article 48.12 is extremely clear about that, no matter how many times the FIA erroneously claims otherwise.

        Short version for anyone who doesn’t feel like going to the FIA’s regulatory archive: the FIA had 2 options:

        1) Permit lapped cars to overtake. “Any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap,” has only one possible interpretation – a command will be issued to any car that is lapped, who then must unlap themselves. This would have guaranteed a Lewis win because there would have been no green-flag running. This did not happen.

        2) Prohibit lapped cars from overtaking. “OVERTAKING WILL NOT BE PERMITTED” has to be shown in this case, and zero cars may overtake. In the case of Abu Dhabi 2021, this would have resulted in a quick restart situation, with the result depending on whether Red Bull had elected to pit instead of arguing, and then whether Max could get through the cars between him and Lewis (in contrast to situation 1), that was potentially feasible). This also did not happen.

        (Also, either breach cited by Trevor casts the whole approach, and thus the whole result, into doubt).

        1. You undermine your incorrect belief by this statement: “no matter how many times the FIA erroneously claims otherwise”. FIA is the rule writer, and much better than you at assessing those rules.

          You make two major mistakes here:
          a) The rules explicitly allow the Race Director to call in the SC when he deems it safe to do so (even if this is earlier than ‘after the next lap’)
          b) you assume that had all cars be allowed to unlap that the SC would make another tour. This is nothing more than your belief and not based on data or facts as I showed in the post above.

    3. 3. At the urging of the teams, including Red Bull and Mercedes, an agreement was made and documented in the pre-event directors note that it was very much preferable to finish the race under green flag conditions.

      1. Fred Fedurch
        31st July 2022, 12:49

        ^—– This.

        ALL the teams had lobbied for a green flag finish if possible for at least a year prior to Abu Dhabi. All Masi did was find a way within the rules to grant them their wish.

        1. find a way within the rules

          Are you sure about this?

        2. Except it wasn’t within the rules at all.

      2. @sjaakfoo The “Lapped cars will not overtake” option that was available under the regulations to the director would have provided more green running than the route that was actually taken.