Red Bull boss Christian Horner has said the decision to remove Michael Masi as Formula One race director last week was 'harsh'.
Masi came under fire following the dramatic climax of the 2021 Formula One season where he failed to apply the rules correctly during a late safety car period, leading to Red Bull's Max Verstappen to overtake Lewis Hamilton and claim a title win that had looked impossible just minutes earlier.
Merecedes unsuccessfully appealed the decision, but the FIA have since launched an inquiry into the drama.
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Masi subsequently lost his job ahead of 2022 season, but Horner has shared his sympathy.
“It’s a difficult one," he said. "It’s the FIA’s business. I think it is harsh, I think he was in a very difficult position last year.
“We felt a lot of the decisions went against us last year.
“It’s good to hear they are bringing in things like the VAR equivalent and one of the most experienced guys in Herbie Blash (former F1 deputy race director).
“I just think there was so much pressure put on the removal of Michael and that’s not right. That’s my personal feeling.”
Horner also said that he believes that, on balance, Verstappen deserved to the win his first world championship ahead of Hamilton.
“You have to look at the season over the 22 races," Horner added. "We had a lot of decisions go against us earlier in the year and penalties that weren’t awarded and so on.
“We got a little bit lucky at the end and sometimes that happens in sport, it’s not over until the whistle goes or the flag falls.
“Tactically, we were sharp at the end. When the crash came five laps from the end we reacted immediately.
“We got Max in, pitted him for a new set of tyres, Mercedes left Lewis out on what was 44-lap tyres at the end of their life.
“Max had to make that pass on the last lap, which he did. There has been some hiding around the controversy.
And Horner said he was opposed to any review of the final race of the season where all the drama took place.
“The bottom line was that tactically we got it right. Max delivered the move and became the world champion.

Hamilton und Verstappen

Image credit: Getty Images

“It’s a bit of a smokescreen as when you look back at the race, Mercedes had two opportunities to pit.
“There was a virtual safety car and then there was a safety car. The driver was asking to pit on both occasions and they left him out.
“That’s what exposed him at the end of the race. Tactically we got it right and it’s those small margins.”
With Hamilton back for the new season, all eyes will be on the rivalry being renewed, but Horner thinks Verstappen has the tools to rule as no.1
“He’s right up there. What you’ve got to remember is the car is a big factor in what we do.
“Lewis, before he went to Mercedes, won one world championship. Since he’s been at Mercedes he’s won another six.
“If we can give Max a car, I think he’s the best driver in the world. At such a young age, he’s got so much ahead of him.
“It’s up to us to give him the tools to realise his talents.”
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