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Leaked Audio Shows F1 Director Masi Swayed By Red Bull In Abu Dhabi

Leaked Audio Shows F1 Director Masi Swayed By Red Bull In Abu Dhabi
By Jonathan Byrne

The controversy surrounding Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton's F1 title race battle continues.

To jog your memory; the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ended in bizarre circumstances. We'd never seen anything of the like in a Formula 1 race.

A safety car was deployed after Williams' Nicholas Latifi crashed on the circuit. Lewis Hamilton was seven laps away from winning the Drivers' Championship.

The break in action allowed second-placed Max Verstappen to change to a fresh set of soft tyres while Mercedes chose not to pit and leave Hamilton on a set of hard compound tyres.

F1 Race Director Michael Masi then decided to make the call to allow the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves with one lap to go.

This allowed Max Verstappen to battle Lewis Hamilton one-on-one, and he took he capitalised by winning the race and the championship.

Many believed Michael Masi bent the rules at Abu Dhabi to provide for an exciting finish to the F1 season. There was no precedent for the events that unfolded.

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It has resulted in Mercedes lodging an appeal, then withdrawing, then Lewis Hamilton protesting by not turning up to an FIA ceremony, and the FIA launching their own investigation.

Masi's Correspondence With Red Bull

Leaked audio from Red Bull and Mercedes shows some correspondence between Michael Masi and Red Bull Team Director Jonathan Wheatley.

Masi is seen communicating with Wheatley and being swayed by his suggestions, as he's asking for the five cars to unlap themselves to set up a one-on-one showdown.

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What's fairly discouraging about the audio is how out of the loop Mercedes is. It seemed like Red Bull knew what was happening before anyone else.

Here's a transcript of the audio from Abu Dhabi before that final lap:

Mercedes to Hamilton: There are five backmarkers between you and P2.

Red Bull to Masi: Obviously those lapped cars, you don't need to let them go right the way around and catch up with the back of the pack.

Masi to Red Bull: Understood.

Red Bull to Masi: You need to let them go.

Masi to Red Bull: Understood, just give us a second.

Red Bull to Masi: ...and then we got a motor race on our hands.

Mercedes to Hamilton: We believe they may restart the race like this (with the lapped cars still in position)

Red Bull to Verstappen: I think all the cars ahead of you are going to pass Hamilton, everyone behind you will stay in position.

Masi Under Threat 

What makes the leaked audio even more damning is Michael Masi's response to Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff's tirade before the last lap.

Wolff was upset at the move to leave Verstappen hot on Hamilton's heels. Masi responded, "It's called a motor race," which was what Red Bull's Jonathan Wheatley had said to Masi.

Yesterday, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said they will put a 'key focus' on supporting the F1 Race Director next season.

The FIA's investigation into the events at Abu Dhabi has yet to conclude. The results of their findings are unlikely to be published before March 18th.

There will be proposals made on how races are managed and the role of the F1 Race Director going forward. That will be addressed at an F1 Commission meeting next week.

See Also: 'An Au Pair For An Adult': Laoisman Patrick Harding On Being A Personal Coach For An F1 Star

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