Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out
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Martin Brundle has taken aim at Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff for his continued correspondence with FIA race director Michael Masi throughout the 2021 F1 season. Millions watched on at the weekend as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen battled it out for the World Championship.
But the final lap drama stole the headlines as Masi raised eyebrows with his decision to allow the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen through so the title protagonists could battle it out on the last lap.
Mercedes were incensed, particularly with Hamilton soldiering on with old hard tyres while Verstappen had recently pitted for new softs.
During the safety car period, Christian Horner was initially on team radio to Masi begging to let the two leaders race.
He ended up getting his wish, with Wolff then heard responding in utter dismay at Masi’s U-turn.
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Wolff went on to demand Masi to “reinstate the lap before, that’s not right”.
Mercedes would later lodge two protests after Verstappen was crowned world champion, both of which were dismissed.
It’s far from the first time Wolff and Horner were involved in a heated exchange with Masi on team radio.
Giving F1 fans the ability to listen in on conversations between teams and Masi was intended to enhance the viewing experience, bringing the viewers closer to the action.
But Brundle believes it has had a negative impact on the sport and highlighted Wolff’s plea for no safety car at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when Antonio Giovinazzi pulled up at the side of the track.
He wrote for Sky Sports: “Until this year any correspondence from the pit wall to race control was not broadcast, and it’s totally unacceptable to hear team bosses and team managers even pre-empting situations and lobbying.
“They are only doing their jobs but in earlier days would have been given short shrift by Charlie.
“Toto Wolff’s outrageous call to Masi to lobby for no safety car for Antonio Giovinazzi’s stricken Alfa Romeo in Abu Dhabi, and Christian Horner telling the world seven days earlier how much F1 missed Charlie Whiting because the restart grid in Saudi Arabia felt like a ‘Souk negotiation’, which didn’t age well for him, simply wouldn’t have happened before.
“They are super competitive and under pressure people using all the tools available to them, and the power base and direction of communication has totally changed.
“Those tools need to be more regulated.”
Ross Brawn, F1 managing director, has since announced that teams will not have the ability to contact Masi during a race next year following this season’s controversies.
“We will stop this contact next year,” Brawn said. He added, “The decision in the last lap is a highlight that cannot be topped. Unfortunately, the protest takes the shine from this final a bit.”
“It is not acceptable that the team bosses put Michael under such pressure during the race. Toto Wolff cannot demand that a safety car should not come, and Christian Horner cannot demand that the cars have to lap back. That is at the discretion of the race director.”
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