Masi replaced as F1 race director after Abu Dhabi controversy

Michael Masi [photo courtesy]

Australian Michael Masi has been replaced as Formula One race director and offered a new role within the sport's governing FIA in the wake of the title-deciding safety car controversy in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Masi's former job is to be split between Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas as part of a restructuring unveiled on Thursday by the FIA's president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

Masi's future was thrown into doubt after he altered the safety car procedure to allow for a last lap of racing that cost Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton a record eighth title and handed a first to Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

Masi got only the lapped cars between race-leading Hamilton and second-placed rival Verstappen out of the way after a late-race crash, allowing the Dutchman to pass Hamilton on the last lap.

The new race control management team will be in place in time for the first pre-season test in Barcelona on Feb. 23, with FIA veteran Herbie Blash assisting Wittich and Freitas as permanent senior advisor.

The changes were unveiled by Ben Sulayem in a speech posted online.

They include the setting up of a virtual race control room, operating in a similar way to football's VAR.

Unlapping procedures behind the safety car will also be reassessed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the next F1 Commission prior to the start of the season, while direct radio communications during the race, broadcast live on TV, will be removed.

The Emirati, who was elected the FIA's first non-European president in December, said the changes had been presented at a meeting of the F1 Commission on Monday where they were unanimously supported by the teams and Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali.