Toto Wolff’s outrage at race director Michael Masi during the dramatic climax of last season’s Formula One World Championship in Abu Dhabi remains at the forefront of fans’ concerns, nearly a year since the famous incident that gripped the sports world. And Mercedes boss Wolff recently shared a joke with a fan about his comments, with the dust now firmly settled on that infamous last-lap showdown.
Masi was removed from his role as F1 race director by the FIA at the end of last season after he botched a decision that ultimately decided the World Championship. After being pressed by Red Bull boss Christian Horner, Masi allowed a last-lap showdown between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in what was an incorrect interpretation of the rules.
Masi was criticized for allowing run-in cars to pass Hamilton during the safety car, which left Verstappen just behind his Mercedes car with fresh new tyres. Australian Masi then allowed the race to resume a lap before regulations allowed, giving Verstappen a free run in Hamilton to win his first world title.
Verstappen has since won a dominating second world title, but the drama at the Yas Marina circuit has not been forgotten.
Mercedes boss Wolff’s comments to Masi as he furiously searched the radio as events unfolded have gone down in history among F1 fans.
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The 2022 season has been filled with frustration for Wolff’s Silver Arrows team, with drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell both unable to break Red Bull’s dominance with a race win.
And Wolff’s frustration was compounded by news that Red Bull exceeded their car’s spending limits in Verstappen’s 2021 title win.
The FIA announced that Red Bull had been found guilty of a “minor breach” of its budget, meaning it had exceeded its allocated £114million by less than £6.7million.
Despite the breach, it was unexpected that Hamilton won last season’s title. And Wolff insists Red Bull’s breach is by no means “minor” and believes their overspending could have made a tangible difference in last year’s title battle.
“Is this a so-called minor infraction, as I think the word is probably not correct?” he said. “If you spend five million more and you’re still in a minor breach, it still has a big impact on the championship.
“To give you an idea, we are obviously closely monitoring the parts that are brought to the track by the top teams at each race – for the 2021 season and the 2022 season.
“We can see that there are two top teams that are roughly the same and there is another team that spends more.”