Formula 1’s reputation fell further on Friday evening when the meeting between Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and FIA president Mohamed Ben Sulayem was shrouded in pointed secrecy, with Lewis Hamilton’s future involvement in the sport unresolved.
The two big beasts met privately in Geneva to discuss the controversial end of the season in Abu Dhabi which saw Hamilton lose the title to Red Bull Max Verstappen on the last lap.
But on Friday evening, the two sides withdrew into silence on the nature, extent and outcome of the discussions. The confidentiality agreement blows up the FIA’s stated ambition to introduce a new breath of transparency.
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff (left) spoke with new Formula 1 governor Mohammed bin Sulayem (right) to discuss last season’s farcical result on Friday – with the future of Michael Massey discussed.
Mercedes has called for race director Massey to be sacked over a wrap car call in Abu Dhabi
Understandably, no definitive agreement was reached, with both sides reluctantly agreeing to stick to the ridiculously long time limit the FIA had set to investigate the matter – mid-March.
Race director Michael Massey is hoping to stick with his job after the December 12 affairs, when he controversially brought in the safety car and allowed Verstappen, on freshly changed tyres, to overtake Hamilton and win the Briton-dominated race. Sources close to the scene are divided over the prospects for Massey remaining in the job.
While Wolff wants the 42-year-old Australian official to be sacked, with suggestions his departure is a prerequisite for Hamilton seeing the final two years of his £30m annual contract, others believe Mercedes is bullying the FIA and that they should not be allowed to dictate How to run Formula 1.
Mercedes star Hamilton is likely to continue into the 2022 championship but the outcome of this meeting is important
The investigation is being finalized at the FIA World Motorsports Council meeting on March 18, two days before the race kicks off in Bahrain. The travel trend is expected to update sooner than that, with smart money in Hamilton.
Bin Sulayem, a 61-year-old rally driver from Dubai who met Wolff, has been voted president of the ruling FIA in December, and high on his waiting list is a disaster in Abu Dhabi.
Wolff wants to remove Massey from his position before the start of the 2022 season in Bahrain in March. At the moment, every question in Formula One circles surrounds Hamilton’s future and whether he will return after this controversial defeat.
Max Verstappen overtakes Lewis Hamilton on the last lap after a controversial safety car call
Since losing the title on the last lap to Red Bull rival Verstappen, the 37-year-old has refused to commit to seeing the remainder of his two-year contract with Mercedes, which is worth around £70m.
Mercedes previously withdrew its legal action against the ruling FIA, believing it had no chance of winning an appeal on the grounds that it would require the FIA to overturn their hosts at further significant damage to the sport.
But Mercedes, the 2021 constructors’ champions, have called for a comprehensive investigation currently being undertaken to overhaul the F1 integration after the Abu Dhabi disaster.
Massey cannot continue as race director because he has “caused a lot of damage” and confidence has “completely evaporated” in his judgment, former race driver Johnny Herbert believes.
“I think he’s done a lot of damage to Formula 1 and I think because of the position he’s in, we have to have confidence,” Herbert said. Sky F1. I think this confidence has completely and completely evaporated.
But Herbert’s Sky F1 teammate, Martin Brandl, is not sure a one-man change is the answer, believing that abandoning Massey does not ‘solve the problem’ as it pushes for greater reform.
“This is a very big job for one person to handle this in a 23-race season, it’s just going to grow,” said Brandel. “Masey, if he stays, needs a lot of support around him and I suspect that’s what they’re looking at at the moment.
Former racing driver Johnny Herbert (R) feels there is no longer any faith in Massey in his position
Former Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone suggested earlier this month that race director Massey had been “overwhelmed” throughout the 2021 F1 season – despite insisting he made the right decisions in the controversial title decision in Abu Dhabi.
Ecclestone told German magazine BILD: “He has been in many cases overwhelmed with his job all season and probably shouldn’t have had it at all. But it was the right decision to let them race.
Speaking to Sky Ecclestone, he declined to talk about Mercedes being robbed because he referred to the first lap incident in which Hamilton was knocked off the track after an attempt to overtake by Verstappen and retained the lead.
He added, “The theft, that’s complete and utter nonsense. If you want to think about it carefully, the first lap of this race is [Hamilton] He got out of the ring and back again and Verstappen stayed on the track and did absolutely nothing wrong.
Lewis was never punished for that, so he shouldn’t complain too much. These things happen all the time in sports. We shouldn’t blame the race director, he did exactly the right thing to do.