Former F1 race director Michael Masi made the most controversial decision in F1’s history at the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP.
Michael Masi made the most infamous decision in Formula 1 history at the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP. He ended his seven-month silence to admit he feared for his life in the wake of the shocking revelation that cost Lewis Hamilton his eighth world title.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, the Former F1 race director admitted he was afraid to stroll down the streets after receiving so many death threats and hate mail.
Being bombarded with ‘vile’ insults and death threats
The Western Sydney native who landed his dream job as F1’s chief steward turned into the “most hated man in the world” when he imposed a championship costing penalty on Hamilton during the title-deciding F1 race in December last year.
“There have been some dark days,” Masi said in his first substantial interview since. “And absolutely, I felt like the most hated person in the world. I was threatened with death. People say they’re going to come after me and my family.”
“I still remember walking down the street in London a day or two later. I thought I was okay until I started looking over my shoulder. I was looking at people wondering if they were going to get me.”
Masi’s decision to allow lapped cars between the leaders Hamilton and Verstappen, to move around the Mercedes driver and the safety car set up the Dutchman to pass the reigning champion on the final lap and claim the title.
A follow-up assessment on the Abu Dhabi race concluded that Masi had made a “human error” but had acted in “good faith.” It also mentioned that he had come under “tremendous pressure” due to a “diversion” of radio communications from Mercedes and Red Bull leading to that decision.
“They called me every name under the sun,” – Michael Masi revealed
Masi, who quit the FIA’s governing board in March, faced the fury of not only Mercedes but F1 fans as he became the target of a flood of criticism on social media.
“They were shocking,” describing the responses he received on Facebook, he said, “Racist, abusive, vile, they called me every name under the sun.”
“And they kept on coming. Not just on my Facebook but also on my LinkedIn, which is supposed to be a professional platform for business. It was the same type of abuse.”
The 44-year-old has since returned to Australia and did not seek professional help in the wake of the tragedy.
“I didn’t want to talk to anyone,” he mentioned. “Not even family and friends. I only talked to my close family – but very briefly.”
“It did have a physical impact, but it was more mental. I just wanted to be in a bubble. I had no desire to talk to them. I just wanted to be alone, which was very challenging.”
“The whole experience has made me a much stronger person,” he added.