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Brundle: Resurfaced Masi audio “uncomfortable” for F1

Audio of a chat between Masi and Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley were widely circulated on social media on Wednesday, prompting fresh anger from many fans.

In the conversation that is taking place during the late-race safety car, Wheatley says: “Those lapped cars; you don’t need to let them go right the way around and catch up with the back of the pack. You only need to let them go, and then we’ve got a motor race on our hands.”

What has caused unease among many is that Wheatley’s final comment appeared to have set the tone for Masi’s justification of bringing the safety car in early when he was criticised post-race by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

Masi replied: “Toto, it’s called a motor race, okay?”

While the radio chatter is not new and had been originally released by F1 in the week after the Abu Dhabi race, it had been missed by many amid the furore of the events at the time.

Interestingly it was also only made available to the public on 16 December, hours after Mercedes had elected to drop its appeal over the Abu Dhabi result so the team could not have been aware of that chat before it took its final decision.

Brundle, who was commentating on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, said the resurfaced audio prompted this week shows the level of anger there remains from fans about the FIA’s handling of events.

Speaking to Sky Sports F1, he said: “It’s not new news, and also I think you have to understand that it’s not necessarily telling Michael Masi something he didn’t already know.

“Let’s not assume it’s giving Masi information he didn’t already know in terms of what he could and couldn’t do in terms of the lapped pack.

“Of course it’s really uncomfortable, and a lot of people are unhappy: [Lewis] Hamilton fans, Mercedes fans.

“And you don’t even have to be a Lewis Hamilton fan to think that forever he should be an eight-time world champion, because, for me, the really crucial regulation that wasn’t carried out was that the safety car should have come in at the end of the following lap.

“But we also know that unwritten rules and meetings, which shouldn’t supersede anything, were: let’s try not to have a race finish behind the safety car.

“Hugely unacceptable. I met so many fans that were new to Formula 1 last year particularly, and fans in general, that were hugely upset by what happened.”

Martin Brundle, Sky TV Photo by: Drew Gibson / Motorsport Images

Brundle feels that the Abu Dhabi event showed how wrong it was that teams were able to lobby race control directly to try to get events pushed their way.

“We cannot – and we know it’s going to change – have teams getting at the referee while he’s trying to make critical decisions with cars on the track and marshals and breakdown vehicles,” he added.

“The car was on fire at certain times. He’s trying to manage that and he’s getting lobbied left, right and centre.

“You can imagine that on the football ground or rugby ground is completely unacceptable. And that will change.

“It’s not pretty for Formula 1 at all, but I don’t think this audio changes the really uncomfortable narrative of what happened.”

PLUS: The call Masi should have made to ensure the 2021 finale had the integrity F1 deserved

The FIA is due to present the findings of its investigation into the events of Abu Dhabi to the F1 Commission on Monday.

It is also expected to propose changes to the FIA race control structure and rules to ensure there are no repeated errors in the future.

Masi’s position remains unclear and the FIA has admitted that he could be replaced for the 2022 season.

Brundle thinks it is difficult for the Australian to continue in his role, because of the extreme scrutiny he would be put under for every decision made about Hamilton.

“I made a comment that changing Michael Masi won’t fix the problem, meaning that it’s way too big a job for one person,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean to say I’m in full support for Michael Masi. I think he’ll struggle to keep that position.

“The trouble is that the spotlight will be on him, and every single decision will be analysed.

“What happens if Lewis is up for a penalty? Will he be lenient on that? I think he’s in an untenable situation.”

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