Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has doubled down on his criticism of Michael Masi, saying the former F1 race director had become a liability for the sport.
Australian Masi, 44, had been under huge scrutiny since his controversial handling of the final race of the 2021 F1 season in Abu Dhabi which culminated in Max Verstappen taking the title from Lewis Hamilton, and was removed from the role of Formula 1 race director in February.
A review found that the controversy over the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 season finale in 2021 was down to "human error" but that the results were "valid". Masi was subsequently replaced by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas on a joint basis.
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Red Bull driver Max Verstappen has said it was unfair Masi had lost his job as race director and believes he has been "thrown under a bus". While principal Christian Horner went one further, claiming Mercedes’ actions were “tantamount to bullying” following the controversial 2021 season finale.
However, Wolff has doubled down, telling PA that Masi’s inability to receive feedback had led to the 44-year-old becoming a liability.
"It is quite interesting because I had lunch with him [Masi] on the Wednesday before the race, and I said to him that 'I really want to tell you, without patronising you, that you need to take criticism on board and develop from there. Lewis does it every day, but you are a guy who always seems to know better'," he said.
"It wasn't about influencing him but really giving my honest feedback that he shouldn't block outside opinion as simply being wrong.
"You hear from the drivers and how the drivers' briefings were conducted [by Masi] and some of the guys said it was almost disrespectful how he treated some of them.
"He was just immune to any feedback and even today he has not properly reflected that he did something wrong.
"He was a liability for the sport because everybody kept talking about Abu Dhabi and the race director, and the race director should not be somebody that people talk about, but someone who does the job and makes sure the race is run according to the regulations."
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After an inauspicious start to the new season in the Bahrain and Saudi Arabia GPs, the Silver Arrows suggested that they could be set to challenge at the top end of the grid again after a much-improved display in Melbourne.
And Hamilton has lauded the performance of his Mercedes team after a much-improved display saw the Silver Arrows secure their second podium - Hamilton snuck third in Bahrain - finish of the season at the Australian Grand Prix.
The 37-year-old Hamilton qualified fifth – one place ahead of team-mate George Russell – the seven-time world champion finished fourth as Russell secured a first podium of his nascent career at Mercedes.
“It’s a great result for us as a team, honestly,” he told Sky Sports.
“This weekend, we’ve had so many difficult moments with the car, so to get ourselves fifth and sixth in qualifying, to progress like we have and to have that reliability [feels great].
“We definitely didn’t expect to have a third and fourth. George did a great job today; I got to see a bit of the battle of him racing Perez.
“I wish I could have been in it, but nevertheless we’ll take these points and keep on pushing.”
The championship moves to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola over the weekend of April 22nd to 24th with Russell – on 37 points - in second and Hamilton – with 28 points - fifth behind early pacesetter Charles Leclerc’s haul of 71.
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