The unexpected question the FIA’s Abu Dhabi F1 report didn’t address

One cool aspect of the document, which is not mentioned within but confirmed to by several sources, is that neither Massey nor his deputy in Abu Dhabi, Scott Elkins, were actually interviewed as part of the investigation.

This fact must be taken into account, but despite not having a chance to defend himself, Massey comes out of it very well.

In fact, there is no direct criticism of his actions, other than to point out “human error” regarding the cars wrapped behind the safety car.

Instead, there’s a comprehensive explanation for why his job is so hard, and how nefarious radio interference from team bosses Christian Horner and Toto Wolff distracted him from the job he’s doing.

Indeed, in summarizing the report’s conclusions, the FIA ​​made the following significant statement: “In conjunction with the goal of finishing under the Green Flag race conditions applicable throughout the 2021 season, the report found that the race director was acting in good faith and to the best of his knowledge under the circumstances. difficult, especially acknowledging the huge time constraints for making decisions and the enormous pressure that teams put in.”

The actual report rarely refers to Massey by name, instead referring in general terms to his job title.

An essential part of the summary is that he has taken on or been assigned a lot of responsibility.

He replaced Charlie Whiting, a workaholic who had more than two decades to absorb the multiple jobs he was working on. Massey did almost everything his predecessor had done previously, except for the race start assignment.

“The role of the race director is by its very nature demanding and very stressful,” says the FIA. “However, a recurring theme in the detailed analysis and clarification process has been the concern that the number of race director roles and responsibilities that have accumulated over the years may add additional stress to the role.

“From 1997 to 2019, Charlie Whiting held the position of Racing Director. Following the death of Mr. Whiting in March 2019, Michael Masi was appointed as the new Racing Director. Mr. Masi had previously held the position of Deputy Racing Director for Formula 1, Formula 2 and F3 from 2018. Mr. Massey has also assumed Mr. Whiting’s roles as safety delegate and (as of 2021) one-seat athletic director.

Andreas Seidl, McLaren F1 Team Principal, with Formula One Racing Director Michael Massey

Photo by: Charles Coates/Sports Images

“Suggestions made by the F1 committee and those interviewed included that some of the race director’s responsibilities should be divided and allocated to other people to reduce the race director’s workload and allow them to focus on their main functions, including managing and controlling the element.”

It’s a no-brainer: It was absurd that in the age of COVID travel restrictions and with the longer calendar Whiting had tested, in addition to his racing jobs at the weekend, Massey was also required to visit new places like Jeddah and Qatar for track inspections. . .

Obviously, he was happy to take on a heavy workload. The question is why didn’t Jean Todt or anyone else in the organization realize he was doing too much?

Radio interventions and their broadcasts are another major area detailed in the report. Whiting would never allow television to use his conversations with the team’s pit walls, but at F1’s request and with the support of the FIA, Massey agreed they could be used in 2021.

Critics might argue that he showed a weakness in Massey’s makeup – that he was happy to throw some spotlight and raise his profile – but how much pressure was he under to say yes?

Along with the decision to broadcast race control messages came tacit permission for the team managers to participate, something that had never happened before – but it was clearly great for the show.

In Abu Dhabi, it backfired spectacularly.

The FIA ​​acknowledges the error this way: “A lot of discussion has focused on the purpose and suitability of those communications and whether race communications between F1 teams and the race director should be broadcast or even allowed at all.

“The consensus among participants in the detailed analysis exercise was that relevant communications with the race director by the Red Bull Racing and Mercedes team principals during the final laps of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Prix had a negative impact on the smooth running of the race. The final laps were a distraction when needed. race director to focus on making difficult and time-pressed decisions.”

The real issue here was that Massey was dealing with major safety issues and making sure the track guards removing a wrecked Williams were protected from Nicholas Latifi. As he was trying to restart the race as the laps approached, the last thing he needed was to be bothered by the teams.

Safety car and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Safety car and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Simon Galloway/Sports Images

The FIA ​​notes: “When the safety car is deployed, the race director must in particular monitor the cars on the track, the order in which they are placed, the appropriate flags posted, the progress of the guards’ intervention, and thereafter, if the course clerk considers the conditions to permit Ask the safety car to leave the lane.

“The race director must therefore manage both the cars on the track, the safety car entering and what happens at the scene, i.e. a large number of tasks to be accomplished in the least amount of time to allow the race to resume safely and as quickly as possible, while at the same time responding to the requirements of the team principals, This requires tremendous focus.

“Hence, it turns out that these communications were neither necessary nor helpful for the race to run smoothly. Instead, the consensus was that they were adding pressure on the race director at a critical time. […] It may seek to influence (directly or indirectly, or intentionally or unintentionally) the decisions made by the race director.”

As a direct result of what has happened, communications for race control this year will not be broadcast and will be severely restricted – in fact, new race director Nils Wittich has told team directors/sporting directors in Bahrain that the first point of contact will be one of the team members, who will serve as a candidate.

And team managers certainly won’t be allowed to speak.

Once again, one might ask, why didn’t anyone at the FIA ​​during 2021 realize that radio talks were spinning out of control, perhaps imposing restrictions on the all-important Abu Dhabi Final?

Another clear conclusion is that Massey should have had more support.

Control of the race lost a great deal of experience when Herbie Plus left in 2014, when Whiting died in 2019, and when former deputy race director Colin Haywood retired in early 2021 after serving alongside Massey for two years.

There are good reasons to call Blash and Haywood back in support of Wittich this weekend.

The much-announced virtual race control facility, which will serve as a form of VAR technology, will provide additional assistance to Wittich and fellow new race director Eduardo Freitas.

Nils Wittich, Race Director, FIA

Nils Wittich, Race Director, FIA

Photo by: Mark Sutton/Motorsport Pictures

To sum up, there is nothing in the report to say that Massey erred, did something wrong, or did anything undesirable, which, as noted, was without him being allowed to defend himself and provide additional context on why he did what he did about it. A fateful evening in Abu Dhabi.

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Those who know Massey well make it clear that he didn’t make the decision to take him off very well.

At the moment, he still works for the FIA ​​and takes on some of the minor roles he used to perform, but the big award for which he worked so hard has been withdrawn.

There were even whispers in the ring that Massey might be considering legal action over his dismissal from his previous position.

If this proves to be the case, it seems that the report can only help his case.