Christian Horner has slammed the ‘harsh’ decision to sack Formula One race director Michael Masi after the hugely controversial end to last season.
Masi’s decisions led to Max Verstappen being able to pass Lewis Hamilton on the very last lap of the final race in Abu Dhabi to snatch his maiden world championship.
His decisions led to complaints and appeals from the furious Mercedes team before a longer investigation by the FIA, the sport’s governing body.
Michael Masi’s departure as Formula One race director was called ‘harsh’ by Christian Horner
Horner (left) watched on as Max Verstappen (right) won the title in thrilling fashion
Horner believes there was huge pressure applied to remove Masi from his role for the upcoming campaign.
The Red Bull Team Principal told talkSPORT: ‘It’s a difficult one. It’s the FIA’s business. I think it’s harsh.
‘I think that he was in a very difficult position last year. We felt a lot of decisions went against us last year.’
Horner went on to note that Masi’s job was made more difficult by the fact that he lacked the technology at the disposal of the racing teams he was ruling on.
He added: ‘When you look at what he has in terms of resource, compared to what the teams have, it’s such a massive, massive difference.
‘I think it’s good to hear they are bringing in things like VAR equivalent and they are bringing back one of the most experienced guys, Herbie Blash.
‘I just think there was so much pressure put on the removal of Michael and that’s not right. That was my personal feeling.’
Masi allowed Verstappen to pass enough lapped cars to arrive behind Hamilton having pitted after a safety car accident, meaning he was on fresh tires and able to overtake the Brit on the final lap.
Hamilton is gunning for revenge this year after staying quiet for much of the winter, leading some to speculate over whether he would retire.
This season is shaping up to be full of drama again between the new champion and the British star, who is gunning for an eighth title to overtake Michael Schumacher’s record.
Lewis Hamilton (left) was brutally beaten in controversial circumstances last term
‘I am a determined person and I like to think that while moments like this might define other people’s careers, I refuse to let this define mine, so I have focused on being the best I can be and coming back stronger,’ Hamilton vowed recently.
‘If you think what you saw at the end of last year was my best, wait until you see this year.
‘It was obviously a difficult time for me,’ admitted the seven-time world champion, who dominated the final race of last season until the late, fateful moment at which the safety car was withdrawn earlier than the rules permitted.
‘I just unplugged, switched off,’ he continued, on his coping mechanism in the off-season that saw him withdraw himself from social media for a long time.
The Brit is looking forward to battling it out with Verstappen again in the coming season
‘I had my whole family around me, a rare occasion when we were all together. It took time to digest what happened and it is still difficult to fully understand everything, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
‘I put my focus into training, getting healthy and enjoying the time off.
‘At the end of a season, the question is whether you are willing to commit the time and effort that it takes to be a world champion. A lot of people underestimate what that requires.
‘Do you want to sacrifice the time? And punch at the weight you need to? That is a normal mental process for me but this one was compounded by a significant factor. And in the sport I have loved my whole life there was a moment when I lost a little bit of faith.’
Of course, Hamilton enters the upcoming season with a brand new car, recently unveiled by Mercedes.
Mercedes have unveiled the W13, their new car for the upcoming Formula One season
The W13 is the narrowest of all cars that have been presented ahead of the new campaign
The team, led by Toto Wolff, presented the W13, the narrowest car of all teams for the coming season, with just a five cm gap between the pontoon and the floor, making it 10cm narrower than the cars unveiled by Aston Martin and Ferrari.
Mercedes said the car, which took 18 months to build, is 98% new compared to last season’s car. The team also returned to its traditional silver body work after racing in black the last campaign.
Hamilton will be hoping to navigate the new car to the world championship while fellow Brit George Russell will be the car’s other driver after joining Mercedes from Williams to replace Valtteri Bottas.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said ‘deep passion’ went into building the car, which took 17 months
‘Ever since work on W13 began, I have seen an excited enthusiasm in our team members like never before, thanks to the scale of opportunity that these technical regulations provide,’ said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
‘Towards the end of the year when the car build project truly came together, I felt a deep passion across the whole organisation, not only in the technical arena but across our bases at Brackley and Brixworth who were embracing a mindset of ‘we can do this”.
‘We did pretty well during the last big regulatory change into the hybrid era and performed well when we went from the narrow to the wide cars in 2017. While we have a good track record, my message is clear: we can’t rely on past success for this year’s performance, but we can rely on our people, our culture, our structure, and our mindset to do the best possible job for 2022.’