Who will be F1 race director in 2022?

Who will fill the role of race director, as the FIA ​​continues to investigate the controversy over the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, an event that put Michael Masi in the firing line of paddock members and fans of the worldwide on social networks? This wave of criticism has done a lot of damage to F1 at what should have been one of the most beautiful times in its history, when the conspiracy theory was gaining momentum on Twitter.

So it’s no surprise that F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is keen to resolve this situation himself. The Italian came through the FIA ​​before being recruited by Liberty Media, and he understands well how the organization works. He works closely with the new president of the federation, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, and his right-hand man Peter Bayer. Last week, Bayer revealed in the Austrian press that Masi had been informed of his possible replacement and that in any case, the role of the race director would evolve: « The tasks of the race director will be shared [entre plusieurs personnes]he who is also sports director, safety delegate and circuit delegate.

Michael Masi, Race Director, walks the track

Michael Masi walks around the circuit

Circuit inspection is time consuming. At the end of 2021, Masi had to travel to Jeddah several times, between races, to assess the progress of preparations, and in the era of COVID any additional travel becomes a challenge. His predecessor Charlie Whiting managed to juggle between the different tasks but had had years to get his hands on these roles, and the calendar was a little less busy than in 2022.

Another inevitable change is the prohibition of interventions by team managers with race management. Traditionally, only the team manager or sporting director of each team has a direct link with the race director, but as the messages began to be broadcast on television, team bosses were encouraged to participate. However, the messages from Christian Horner and Toto Wolff in Abu Dhabi went too far: the FIA ​​and F1 realize that allowing them to participate was a mistake, since it put additional and unnecessary pressure on Masi.

« Team managers will no longer be able to intervene in this way »Bayer said. « But the team managers will still be able to, because they have to be able to ask questions. We want to put an intermediary with a person responsible for these requests. AT In the future, the race director will be able to concentrate on his task and will no longer be distracted. »

Michael Masi, Race Director, walks the track with an FIA colleague

Michael Masi walks around the circuit

The third expected change is the intervention of additional people working remotely from a dedicated site in order to analyze incidents and provide information to the race director, which seems logical since the race director already has a lot to manage after an accident, such as the neutralization of the event and the fact of establishing the responsibility of the pilots. This would make life easier for the main referee.

Consideration has also been given to bringing in one or two other race directors to alternate with Masi, but the consensus is that while rotation works for the marshals, consistency is needed for the race director. Another proposal was to have two co-directors rather than an assistant race director, with shared responsibility.

And if Masi loses this position and must concentrate on the inspection of the tracks and the role of safety delegate, who could take over, with a job now seen as a poisoned gift? The main candidates enjoy a low-key life in less publicized championships and could therefore prove reluctant.

Among those who qualified were Eduardo Freitas, GT and WEC race director for over 20 years, and Scot Elkins, a former F1 assistant but already busy with Formula E and the DTM, and who has his family. in the USA. There’s also DTM veteran Niels Wittich, who had already been appointed as Masi’s deputy for 2022, not to mention Peter Roberts, who is familiar with Grand Prix weekends thanks to his role in the Porsche Supercup. All could claim a role of co-director.

Niels Wittich, Race director

Niels Wittich

A few former FIA officials could also return to service as advisers, like veteran Herbie Blash, who does not necessarily want to commit to 23 Grand Prix weekends, he who left F1 at the end of 2016. and worked with Yamaha on motorcycles thereafter. Colin Haywood, for his part, held the position of systems manager in the race management for a long time, before adopting a simple role of consultant last May. One could consider that his experience was lacking last season, and not only in Abu Dhabi.

Team managers and sporting directors would also be key targets, since they know the regulations by heart and understand how the FIA ​​works. In addition, their calm temperament and their ability to make quick decisions correspond to the prerequisites. Ferrari’s Laurent Mekies had once been groomed to replace Whiting, but after serving as assistant race director in 2017 and 2018 he decided to join the Scuderia.

Having worked for Tyrrell and Benetton/Renault, Steve Nielsen could be considered an ideal choice, but he is already hard at work with his many other tasks, including rule writing supervised by the race director, and with the start of Ross Brawn at the end of 2022, its load could increase even more. He shouldn’t be a candidate.

Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director, Alpine F1, in the team principals Press Conference

Marcin Budkowski

Like Mekies, Marcin Budkowski previously worked at the FIA ​​in a technical role, but he was frustrated by the lack of career prospects and joined Alpine in 2018, a team he has just left. He could become race director or even sporting director of F1, a role he could have adopted previously if he had not abandoned the federation.

In short, no matter who will be the race director, be it Masi or a newcomer, the task will be gargantuan, scrutinized more closely than ever after the events in Abu Dhabi, with very little margin for error.

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