Ex-F1 race director received death threats over Hamilton mix-up

Michael Masi claimed he received racist, abusive, and vile messages on Facebook after the furor

Former Formula One race director Michael Masi has revealed how he received death threats after a 2021 blunder that saw Lewis Hamilton denied an eighth world championship and Max Verstappen lift his debut world title.

Masi failed to apply the rules properly during a safety car period as the season closer drew to an end in Abu Dhabi.

As a result of his fault, Verstappen then passed Hamilton when the race had to be restarted for a final lap. 

An inquiry by motorsport’s global governing body FIA found that a “human error” was to blame for an incorrection application of F1 rules, and Masi was fired in February this year by FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem.

Masi formally left the FIA this month, and while now at liberty to speak about his experiences, he described the aftermath of his Abu Dhabi debacle as “some dark days”.

“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,” he revealed to News Corp. 

Of messages he received on Facebook, Masi said “they were shocking”. “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,” Masi added, on the same weekend that F1 launched its Drive It Out campaign aimed at tackling online abuse and that distributed at events.

Masi cut a solemn figure after his mistake and revealed that he “wanted to be alone”.

“I didn’t want to talk to anyone,” he explained. “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.”

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Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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Despite his suffering, though, Masi claimed that “the whole experience has made me a much stronger person”.

With Masi since replaced by Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich who share the race director role, the 2022 F1 season is currently 13 rounds through with nine to spare.

Winning the most recent Grand Prix in Hungary on Sunday, Verstappen is in line to scoop a second consecutive world championship while currently leading the driver standings.

Hamilton, who was denied a record eighth crown last year to surpass Michael Schumacher in all-time world title wins, languishes in sixth 112 points behind.