FEBRUARY 21, 2022

Mercedes did not force Masi out says Wolff

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes did not use threats to see Michael Masi removed as Formula 1 race director.

Toto Wolff, Bahrain GP 2019© RV Press Toto
© RV Press

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes did not use threats to see Michael Masi removed as Formula 1 race director.

That was the insistence of team boss Toto Wolff, as Hamilton's retirement threats subsided by his appearance at the launch of Mercedes' new car for 2022 - the silver W13.

The event came after Wolff dropped Mercedes' intention to officially appeal the outcome of the 2021 world championship over Australian Masi's handling of the Abu Dhabi finale.

"The connection between the withdrawal of our complaint and anyone's departure from the FIA is not true," Wolff insisted.

"I don't know where these allegations come from."

Dutch GP boss Jan Lammers, however, says new FIA president Mohammed bin Sulayem's restructuring - including the sacking of Masi - "looks a bit like a sacrifice".

"The Hamilton fan will say 'see!'," he told NOS. "But I think the one who mamde the decisions also had the authority to make those decisions, however controversial they were.

"It's just much, much better now that five or six people are involved so that the rules are always followed."

Wolff agrees that the FIA's changes were "necessary" as the outcome marred an otherwise "excellent season".

And when asked by the German broadcaster RTL if he is sorry to see Masi go, Wolff admitted: "No."

As for Hamilton, he played a straight bat when asked about the controversy by denying that he actually ever threatened to quit F1 amid his post-Abu Dhabi silence.

"I never, ever said that I was going to stop. I love doing what I do," said the 37-year-old, although he admits he has contemplated retirement "so many times".

"It was obviously a difficult time for me, and it was a time where I really needed to take a step back and focus on being present. I eventually got to a point where I decided I was going to be attacking coming into another season, and working with Toto and George (Russell)," added Hamilton.

The seven time world champion also backed the FIA's changes.

"We have to use this moment to make sure that this never happens to anybody else in the sport ever again," said Hamilton.

"Everything that's been said by the FIA, I welcome that but we have to make sure that we keep a close eye and make sure that we actually are seeing those changes."

He added that the announcement, however, is the "first step" in rebuilding all of the "faith and trust" that he had previously had in the FIA.

"But that doesn't necessarily change everything just yet," said Hamilton. "We have to see actual action. And I think it will take a bit of time."

Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher thinks political pressure, including that applied by Wolff and Hamilton, compelled the FIA to act regarding Masi's position.

"Mercedes lost a lot that day," he told Sky Deutschland. "I personally think the decision is a shame because Masi was a good race director.

"But I can well imagine that there was a lot of pressure on the FIA to set an example. Maybe they could have changed the structure with Masi, but apparently the trenches were just too deep."