The 2021 Formula 1 season was one of the most entertaining championships in recent years and even presented Formula 1 with a new champion in the form of Max Verstappen, but it had plenty of controversies surrounding it.
Perhaps the biggest of these came in the final race of the season, when a controversial call by former FIA race director Michael Masi ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton off a record eighth world championship.
Instead, it was Verstappen that saw the fruits of his hard work being rewarded with a maiden world championship.
The events in Abu Dhabi during the final race of the season left a sour taste in the mouths of all F1 fans, regardless of whichever driver they were rooting for.
Since making a controversial call during the season-defining race, Masi has lost his role as race director.
He has also remained relatively silent with respect to events that unfolded on the day.
However, he finally decided to speak about what transpired and tainted his image.
“There were some dark days,” Masi said.
“Absolutely, I felt like I was the most hated man in the world. I got death threats.
“People saying they were going to come after me and my family.
“Not even family and friends. I only talked to my close family – but very briefly.”
Following the event, Masi signed an NDA with the FIA that ensures he cannot share details of the event with the public.
However, the official report that looked into the incident states: “[Masi] was acting in good faith and to the best of his knowledge given the difficult circumstances, particularly acknowledging the significant time constraints for decisions to be made and the immense pressure being applied by the teams.”
Masi’s ‘human error’ eventually cost Hamilton dearly and proved to be one of the biggest talking points of a season that was memorable for many other reasons on the track.
F1 fans protest FIA ‘fixing’
The fact that Masi has signed an NDA means we may never know what truly happened, but F1 fans were quick to point out that FIA was just hiding the facts.
Very interesting to have confirmation that Masi has signed an NDA with the @fia. So much for openness and transparency. What is it that they’re trying to hide?— Rob Myers (@RobLMyers) July 31, 2022
No response to the multitude of #RaceAgainstManipulation reports, either. #F1
Masi having to sign an NDA makes AD '21 seem even more suspicious than it already was, what are the FIA hiding?— Jamez (@F1Jamez) July 31, 2022
Some even questioned the legitimacy of the governing body and claimed that the event was fixed, using the hashtag #F1xed.
if masi’s decision making at AD21 was legal and within his right, why did he have to sign a NDA preventing him from discussing his decision making 🤯🤯🤯— kimi (@hamiltuhn) July 31, 2022
The NDA was necessary because the @fia paid Masi a handsome sum to keep his mouth shut and not sue them for wrongful dissmissal or something… we know people above him were sanctioning the cheating.. *cough cough Jean Todt et al #F1 #F1xed— SussexReign (@SussexReign) July 31, 2022
Rules and regulations need to be updated periodically in every sport and none of them are absolutely foolproof.
To ensure that something similar does not repeat itself, FIA also made some sweeping changes to its own guidelines.
For starters, Masi was replaced by two new race directors who take turns at managing events on a weekly basis.
However, for such a glaring problem to occur in the pinnacle of motorsport certainly raises some question marks.
Do you think there was some foul play involved?