Michael Masi has taken plenty of abuse after his controversial decision in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix gifted Max Vestappen a monumental win, leaving him ‘really hit’ by the scrutiny.
Lewis Hamilton led the race for 53 of the 58 laps, amassing a 10-second lead over Verstappen in his bid to win a record eighth Drivers’ Championship.
Yet when Nicholas Latifi crashed on the final lap, it left Hamilton restricted as the safety car allowed Verstappen to catch the Brit with new tyres.
It seemed as though Masi would let Hamilton cross the line even with the safety car in front as the fracas was yet to be cleared.
But his decision to allow the Dutchman to get closer to Hamilton with just one lap to go caused controversy as the Dutchman romped on to victory with his tyres being the difference.
And his win led to Masi coming under huge criticism – something which has taken its toll, according to FIA Secretary Peter Bayer. “As a police officer, you rarely get any sympathy,” Bayer said via Planet F1.
“What has become unbearable are the reactions on social media, which stop at nothing, as you saw with the death threats against Williams driver Latifi.
“Michael doesn’t have an account, but the hostility in other channels really hit him “In our conversations, I assured him of the support of the association and let him know ‘we want to continue working with you, but I also need your understanding that we do that subject to investigate’.”
New changes have been made to the new season as a result of the incident. “The team bosses will no longer be able to intervene on this channel,” he added.
“Although the team managers can still intervene because they need to be able to ask questions. “In this way, the race director can concentrate on his task in the future and will no longer be distracted.”
The new season gets underway in Bahrain on March 20. Verstappen is favourite to win the Drivers’ Championship again given his exploits last year.
Hamilton has yet to announce whether he will be racing next season after last year’s heartbreaking loss.