Verstappen also revealed he had contacted Masi after feeling “really sad” regarding the decision to replace him with respective former World Endurance Championship and DTM race directors Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich.
The FIA moved to introduce major reform of F1’s race control officiating following the 2021 season finale – including by making the race director a shared role for 2022.
Verstappen’s 2021 title rival, Lewis Hamilton, said he felt it would take time to rebuild his trust in the FIA after losing “a little bit of faith within the system” following the Abu Dhabi events and added that “accountability is key” regarding the action taken by the governing body in the aftermath of the controversy.
Verstappen, who was facing the F1 media for the first time since clinching his first world title following his last-lap pass on Hamilton to win the Abu Dhabi race, offered his thoughts on the situation at the first 2022 pre-season test at Barcelona.
When asked by Autosport about the decision to remove Masi, Verstappen replied: “I think it’s not correct. Everyone always tries to do the best job, everyone can always use help.
“Like us drivers also – we have the whole team behind us, we prove it ourselves. For me, it’s very unfair what happened to Michael – he was really being thrown under the bus.
“Now, [that they] did sack him like that in the first place for me is unacceptable. And now basically [that they] sacked him is really incredible. I feel really sorry for Michael.
“Because I think he was a very capable and good race director.
“I have nothing against the new race directors – because I think they are also very capable and very good race directors.
But, personally, and for Michael, I felt really sad and I sent him a text as well.”
Michael Masi, Race Director
Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images
Verstappen also feels that the decision to remove Masi, who replaced Charlie Whiting as F1 race director following his sudden death in 2019, was incorrect because the Australian was making decision alone in race control.
This is a situation the FIA has changed for 2022, with Freitas and Wittich getting additional assistance as they work in race control in what the governing body has compared to the VAR system in football, as it be based off-site, likely in Geneva where the FIA has offices.
“After Charlie died it’s very hard to take over from someone like him,” said Verstappen. “He had so much experience from the previous years, and also Charlie had help around him.
“And maybe Michael just needed a little bit more. Everyone needs experience.
“[When] I came into this sport, my first year, if I look back at it now, I’m a complete rookie.
“I’m so much better than what I was back then and I think it would’ve been the same for Michael.
“So, to immediately sack him, for me, is not the right decision. But I wish him all the best with whatever comes next and I hope that it is better than being F1 race director.”
Verstappen also criticized F1’s previous arrangement of allowing team bosses to contact the race director directly during live track action – a process that has been removed as part of the reforms for 2022.
“People talk a lot about what was decided in Abu Dhabi, but can you imagine a referee in whatever sport has the coach or equivalent screaming in his ear all the time?” asked the Red Bull racer..
“Let’s say: ‘yellow card!’, ‘red card!’, ‘no decision!’, no foul!’ It’s impossible to make a decision.
“So, I think in the first place that F1 already allowed that – that team members could talk to him about making decisions – [was] very wrong.
“It needed to be Michael making the decisions on his own and having people screaming in his ear was difficult.”