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F1 | Saudi Arabian GP | Race Director Masi: Grid swap offer to Red Bull was 'normal'

Christian Horner claims the bartering for grid positions was better suited to the souk but Masi says such an offer was completely 'normal’.

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F1 | Saudi Arabian GP |  Race Director Masi: Grid swap offer to Red Bull was 'normal'
Fuente imagen: Hasan Bratic - Motorlat

Last Sunday’s chaotic, two-time interrupted through red flags, inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will live long in the memory. When the race finally reached its conclusion, Sir Lewis Hamilton had crossed the line first which ensured that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix would be a title decider between the seven-time F1 Driver’s Champion and Max Verstappen. However, one of the talking points to come from Jeddah was the bartering of grid positions which was ‘a new situation’ for Toto Wolff and like something expected from a ‘souk’ (an Arab market) according to Christian Horner. For Michael Masi though, the man proposing the offer to begin with, it was ‘very much a normal discussion’.

With the drama not content after a first red flag restart, the same flag would reappear later on for a second time. With action ceased on track the hotline to the FIA was in quick action and the audio tantalisingly transmitted to the millions of people listening in.

This moment of debate (there were many on Sunday) arose because Max Verstappen had been deemed to have illegally retaken the lead from Lewis Hamilton after the first restart.

The Dutchman and one-time favourite for the F1 Drivers’ title had run off track around the outside and gained an unfair lasting advantage in the moments before the race was stopped for a second time.

During the break, as action waited to restart at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Race Director Michael Masi contacted Red Bull Racing’s sporting director Jonathan Wheatley with a back and forth over having Max Verstappen change grid positions.

Despite saying they would ‘have an internal discussion about this’ as they ‘thought they were pushed off there’, Red Bull Racing took Michael Masi up on his offer. Hardly a shock as the FIA race director’s transmitted remarks to Mercedes had explained ‘if they choose not to accept that then obviously I’ll refer that to the stewards.’ Such a move would surely have resulted in a penalty to Verstappen.

Meanwhile, F1 Commentator Martin Brundle, upon hearing the dialogue, told the viewing public ‘It’s quite unusual to have bit of we’ll offer you this will you take it or not?’ With that, a new meme came to life of FIA Race Director Michael Masi photoshopped on the face of gameshow host Noel Edmonds in his famous ‘Deal or No Deal?’ role.

While the internet was sparking to life (and unsurprisingly debate) on the matter, Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner was also asked for his reaction: “It was a bit like being down the souk, which was unusual. I haven't come across that previously." Horner claimed.

In the garage next door, after their victorious race and Lewis Hamilton’s 8th of the 2021 season, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team principal Toto Wolff revealed:

“It was a new situation for us as well… We lost the position with this actually very hard manoeuvre in Turn 1 and 2. Then, they said, we have to turn the position around, so you actually have track position. Then there's a restart and of course it's not much help if you lose it again straight away. We have to look at that.”

Clearly, the Mercedes maestro feels that the events surrounding the bartering for grid positions need to be reassessed and he concluded "I think Michael Masi has his hands full in the race with debris and crashes. But from the outside, we can certainly learn from it."

However, the man at the center of the discussion, Michael Masi, claimed in his post-race comments that his red flag timed negotiation was completely 'normal’.

"It's very much a normal discussion that happens regularly on a number of occasions and has had all year and previously.” he said in comments published on motorsport.com

“I wouldn't call it a deal,” Masi explained. “From a race directors' perspective, I have no authority to actually instruct the teams to do anything. In that situation, I can give them an offer, the ability to do that, but the choice is theirs. The stewards are obviously empowered to impose penalties, but I can give them my perspective, so that's why I offered them the ability to give that position up.”

The only difference this time around, according to Masi, was due to the fact that the negotiation occurred during a red flag period.

“The priority in any red flag situation is to make sure the drivers are safe, then to activate the recovery and the marshals to clean the track and so forth,” Masi remarked. “So probably it seemed a bit elongated compared to normal. However, it's very much a normal discussion that takes place…Being under a suspension, it was the ability to effectively correct that before we went racing again."

Alpine’s, driver Esteban Ocon was the main winner (at that stage) from the impromptu ‘Deal or No Deal?’ sequence of events as the Frenchman had found himself on pole before eventually finished in an agonizing 4th position.


Having labelled the red flag timed discussion as “pretty surreal” Alpine’s executive director Marcin Budkowski also confessed it was ‘was fairly exciting to have that during the red flag.’

The 2021 F1 season has certainly been one filled with excitement. Now with the two challengers for the F1 Drivers’ title level on points (albeit Max Verstappen just ahead on race victories) it all comes down to Abu Dhabi. It would be lovely to have a trouble-free Grand Prix weekend without incident and controversy. In a surreal season, such an outcome would be the most surreal of them all.

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