Brawn defends F1 race director Masi after chaotic Saudi GP
Formula One's managing director Ross Brawn has defended race director Michael Masi after criticism of the Australian's handling of last Sunday's chaotic Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Masi has taken flak from both sides as Mercedes' seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen fight for the title, with the pair tied on points ahead of Sunday's final winner-takes-all showdown in Abu Dhabi.
"I'd like to compliment the FIA and Masi for handling well what was an extremely difficult race," Brawn wrote in a column for the F1 website on Tuesday.
"I know some people feel some of the decisions were controversial but I don't. I think Michael dealt with it pragmatically."
In Jeddah, a twice-halted race won by Hamilton, Masi offered Red Bull the opportunity to drop Verstappen from first to third on the grid at the restart and avoid being referred to the stewards with the risk of a penalty.
The exchange was messy, with initial confusion about where Verstappen would line up.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told reporters afterwards it was unusual and sounded "a bit like being down the souk (local market)."
Brawn said it was a quick and simple solution to a situation.
"Some people seem to think Michael was doing a deal. He wasn't doing a deal," he said.
"It was simple: you accept the decision of the race director, with a known outcome, or it gets passed to the stewards to handle it."
Verstappen was handed two separate time penalties in Jeddah for track misdemeanours and Horner said later the sport was missing Charlie Whiting, Masi's universally-respected predecessor who died before the 2019 season.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has also clashed with Masi, speaking of "laughable" decisions at last month's Sao Paulo Grand Prix when stewards took no action against Verstappen for a move that forced Hamilton off.
Masi has said every competitor is treated equally and fairly, but recognised those penalised would take a different view.
The Australian has become more prominent this season since the sport began broadcasting radio communications between the teams and race director, adding to the sense of theatre but also bringing more public scrutiny.
With so much at stake and the possibility of a collision, controversial move or penalty deciding the outcome in Abu Dhabi, Masi and the stewards are enforcers of rules and defenders of fair play.
Sunday's race at Yas Marina will be only the second time in Formula One history that two drivers have gone into a decider level on points.
The first was at the 1974 US Grand Prix when Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi beat Swiss driver Clay Regazzoni.
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