Under-fire FIA race director Michael Masi has been accused of doing “too much damage to Formula 1” following his controversial handling of events last season.
Masi’s job is on the line given the decisions he made during the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that had what Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff described as “a catastrophic impact” on the destiny of the F1 drivers’ title.
The Australian’s judgment over the closing laps during a safety car period handed the championship to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen when Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was set to clinch his eighth crown.
It remains to be seen whether Masi will be forced to resign or allowed to continue, and if not alone then with another figure alongside him to ease the pressure, as was the case with Herbie Blasch who supported Charlie Whiting.
Debating whether Masi can survive, in a conversation with fellow former F1 drivers Martin Brundle and Damon Hill on a Sky Sports F1 YouTube channel special, Herbert was the most outspoken.
“In many respects, and in all respects, no,” was Herbert’s initial response.
“I think he has done too much damage to Formula 1. Because of the position he is in you’ve got to have trust, and I think that trust has completely and utterly evaporated.”
Herbert, however, recognises there is another issue as there is no natural successor, unlike when Masi was appointed after learning his trade under Whiting.
“The problem is, who do you replace him with because obviously experience is going to be very, very important for the man who slots into that position?” questioned Herbert.
“Michael was very fortunate because he was underneath Charle Whiting when Charlie was head of it and he learned a lot of very good things from that point of view.
“Is there anybody that stands out for me at the moment to replace him? No. And that is the conundrum.”
Brundle – who would want to step into Masi’s shoes?
Brundle, meanwhile, feels Masi needs an able deputy alongside him, as Whiting had with Blasch.
“If the FIA and F1 want Michael Masi to stay, and if Michael Masi wants to stay, he’s clearly only got one life left hasn’t he, so I don’t know if that’s tenable all round,” remarked Brundle.
“As Johnny said, who would you replace him with? Be careful for what you wish for is what I would say on this.
“And what I absolutely know for sure, is that changing Michael Masi will not fix the problem. This is way too big a job for one person to handle this in a 23-race season that’s only going to grow.
“We’re all over the world…it’s just growing exponentially, so Masi, if he stays, needs a lot of support around him, and I suspect that’s what they’re looking at at the moment.
“And who would actually want to step into his shoes right now?’
Hill concurred with Brundle. “I think he’s learned his lesson,” said the 1996 champion.
“We need someone who’s got some experience so at least people know who they’re dealing with.
“He just needs back up and given the confidence that he can lay down the law according to what he wants to see done, assuming, of course, he wants it run according to the regulations.”