Max Verstappen hits out at officials over F1 race director Michael Masi’s sacking

World champion Max Verstappen has jumped to the defense of ousted Formula One race director Michael Masi, saying the Australian official has been “thrown under the bus”.

In a bullish show of support for Masi, the Dutch driver said it was “very unfair” that he’d lost his job and added the decision of the governing body, the FIA, to kick him out was “incredible”.

The 24-year-old added that he’d even texted Masi after his sacking to offer his sympathy and support.

Verstappen won the world title on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the last race of the season in December, after Masi failed to follow the rules correctly and made decisions that enabled the Dutchman to pass his title rival Lewis Hamilton.

Man weating a blue cap frowns.
Max Verstappen believes Australian Michael Masi was ‘thrown under the bus’ after being sacked by Formula One.(Pool via Reuters: Giuseppe Cacace)

Following an inquiry into his much-debated rulings, the FIA ​​announced a race control restructure with Masi thrown out of the job he’d done for three years and replaced by two race directors who’ll rotate roles through the season.

Speaking about the issue for the first time publicly, Verstappen, talking at pre-season testing in Barcelona, ​​said: “For me, it’s very unfair what happened to Michael because he’s really been thrown under the bus.”

The champion also questioned why team personnel – like his own Red Bull boss Christian Horner and Mercedes’ Toto Wolff – had been allowed by F1 chiefs to communicate with Masi during high pressure moments during the race.

“The people who did sack him allowed that in the first place. For me, that is unacceptable,” Verstappen said.

“Now they sacked him and I find that really incredible. I feel really sorry for Michael because I feel he was a really capable and good race director.”

A man wearing a white shirt sits with arms crossed and a pensive expression.
Australian Michael Masi was sacked after he made the controversial call that saw Max Verstappen win the title.(AFP: Xavi Bonilla)

Other drivers, including former world champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, have also been voicing their support for the Australian in Barcelona.

Masi, though, will be no longer involved at the business end of race control and is expected to now only have a role involved in safety issues within the FIA.

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