Wolff’s «pathological egomaniac» Masi remark shows F1 Abu Dhabi 2021 wounds remain

Masi came under fire for the way he handled the closing stages of the 2021 season finale, where he ended the safety car period just in time to enable a final-lap showdown between title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

It allowed Red Bull driver Verstappen, who was on fresher tyres, to make a last-gasp pass on Mercedes rival Hamilton for the lead and with it clinch his maiden drivers’ crown.

The critics felt Masi had not followed the rules in Abu Dhabi on two counts, having neither allowed all lapped cars to unlap themselves nor left enough of a gap until the restart.

The FIA conducted an investigation into his handling of the race and concluded that he had acted in «good faith», even if there was a «human error» on his part in not letting all lapped cars rejoin the back of the field.

Masi was dropped from his post as F1’s race director even before the investigation had been completed and later split with the FIA altogether, with the governing body going on to make a number of changes to its procedure in order to avoid a repeat of the incident.

Although the furore regarding the 2021 title decider has died down over the years, in part due to Red Bull’s dominance under new regulations and Mercedes’ subsequent decline in form, the Yas Marina race remains one of the most controversial events in recent sporting history.

Michael Masi, FIA

Michael Masi, FIA

Photo by: Erik Junius

In an interview conducted last year for The Formula book, Wolff once again hit out at the Australian, saying it is «unfair» how his actions tilted the title battle away from Hamilton.

«When I keep my thoughts running with it, it’s so unfair what happened to Lewis and the team that day, that a single individual breaking the rules has basically let that happen,» Wolff said.

«Even though he’s completely irrelevant: he lives on the other side of the world and nobody is interested in him.

«He was really a total, pathological egomaniac.»

In its investigation, the FIA noted that Masi had taken into account the desires of F1 stakeholders, including teams, to end races under green-flag conditions and avoid anti-climactic safety car finishes.

Wolff admitted there was a showbiz element to that year’s Abu Dhabi finale, but feels Hamilton was «robbed» of a record eight drivers’ title in a move that left a lasting impact on the history of F1.

«It’s the drama and glory, which makes the sport so compelling,» he said. «Everyone saw the drama of a worthy eight-time world champion that was robbed of his title.

The Safety Car leads Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521, and the rest of the field

The Safety Car leads Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521, and the rest of the field

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

«I’d rather have it finished the other way around, but clearly that’s a mark in history.»

At the end of last year, Hamilton admitted he did briefly consider retiring from F1 in the wake of the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP, but eventually decided to extend his career in grand prix racing.

The British driver described the events that followed the immediate aftermath of the race, as he joined newly-crowned champion Verstappen in the parc ferme, as the «defining moments» of his life.

«Was I robbed? Obviously. You know the story,» Hamilton told the GQ magazine. «But what was really beautiful in that moment, which I take away from it, was my dad [Anthony] was with me. And we’d gone through this huge roller coaster of life together, ups and downs.

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«And the day that it hurt the most, he was there, and the way he raised me was to always stand up, keep your head high.

«I obviously went to congratulate Max, and not realising the impact that would have, but also I was really conscious of [that] there’s a mini-me watching. This is the defining moment of my life. And I think it really was. I felt it.

«I didn’t know how it was going to be perceived. I hadn’t visualised it. But I was definitely conscious of: These next 50 meters that I walk is where I fall to the ground and die, or I rise up.»

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