In a video statement released this afternoon, the FIA have outlined structural changes that are being made to reform F1 refereeing.
As result of the FIA’s analysis of what happened during both the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the whole of the 2021 season, the FIA President, Mohammed Ben Sulayem will be removing Michael Masi and putting a new race in charge from next week’s pre-season test in Barcelona.
There will now be two alternating Race Directors while Herbie Blash, who spent 20 years as Deputy Race Director alongside the late Charlie Whiting, will act as a permanent senior advisor to the role.
Masi, after three years as Race Director, will be offered a new role in the FIA while his replacements will be Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, who have most recently served as Race Directors for the World Endurance Championship and DTM.
Ben Sulayem will also be implementing a Virtual Race Control to act as a motorsport equivalent to football’s VAR (Video Assistant Referee) system. The Virtual Race Control will be on-site and in a separate room to the real Race Control team but will have a direct line of communication with the Race Director.
While this new team will be in-contact with the Race Director, the F1 teams won’t be anymore. The FIA to team radio was broadcast on TV for the first time over the course of the 2021 season and, while a fascinating insight, showed just how much discussion went on between the teams and Race Director while decisions were trying to be made.
The FIA decided to remove this line of communication “in order to protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully.” The teams will not be fully blocked from contracting Race Control in the upcoming season, but will have to use another “non-intrusive” method.
The Safety Car process, specifically the unlapping of cars is currently still being looked at however the Advisory Committee will have a recommendation on what to do or not to do with it before the 2022 season starts.
Ben Sulayem finished by thanking everyone involved in creating the reforms and said that the changes were fully supported by the World Motor Sport Council.
“With this plan,” Ben Sulayem said. “FIA opens the way for a new step forward in Formula 1 refereeing. Without the referees, there is no sport. Respect and support of the referees is in the essence of the FIA. That is why these structural changes are crucial in a context of strong development and the legitimate expectations of drivers, teams, manufacturers, organizers, and of course, the fans.
“These changes will enable us to start the 2022 Formula 1 season in the best conditions, and our sport will be even more loved and respected.”
During the F1 Commission Meeting in London, I presented part of my plan for a new step forward in Formula 1 refereeing.
Drawing conclusions from the detailed analysis of the events of the last F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and from the 2021 season, I proposed an in-depth reform of the organization of refereeing and race direction. It was unanimously supported by F1 CEO and teams principals.
Here is my plan for these structural changes:
Firstly, to assist the race director in the decision-making process, a Virtual Race Control Room will be created. Alike the Video Assistance Referee (VAR) in football, it will be positioned in one of the FIA Offices as a backup outside the circuit. In real-time connection with the FIA F1 race director, it will help to apply the sporting regulations using the most modern technological tools.
Secondly, direct radio communications during the race, currently broadcast live by all TVs, will be removed in order to protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully. It will still be possible to ask questions to the race director, according to a well-defined and non-intrusive process.
Thirdly, unlapping procedures behind safety car will be reassessed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the next F1 Commission prior to the start of the season.
And finally, I would like to inform you that a new race management team will be put in place starting in Barcelona for the test session.
Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will act alternatively as Race Director, assisted by Herbie Blash as permanent senior advisor.
Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three years as Formula 1 race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA.
I presented this complete plan to the members of the World Motor Sport Council and the Senate who gave their full support.
With this plan, FIA opens the way for a new step forward in Formula 1 refereeing. Without the referees, there is no sport. Respect and support of the referees is in the essence of the FIA. That is why these structural changes are crucial in a context of strong development and the legitimate expectations of drivers, teams, manufacturers, organizers, and of course, the fans.
I warmly thank all those who contributed to this reform.
These changes will enable us to start the 2022 Formula 1 season in the best conditions, and our sport will be even more loved and respected.
Thank you for your attention.