Almost a month after the apotheosis in Abu Dhabi, there is still radio silence. Lewis Hamilton has been silent on social media and Mercedes has declined to respond to press requests either. The only time when that happened was the week after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Toto Wolff then held a lengthy Zoom call for the writing press in which he indicated that he was ‘disillusioned’, but he also kept his jaws closed afterwards.
Where there is no speaking in front of the stage, there seems to be significantly more going on behind the scenes. Hamilton and Mercedes, for example, attach great importance to the investigation that the FIA has set up into the final race of 2021, a study whose results will be presented before the first race weekend of this year. Hamilton would even have linked his fate to it, although that must be taken with a grain of salt. After all, it is also more than likely that those signals will be used to further increase the pressure in the political game.
Head of Jut in a political game
In concrete terms, that political game revolves around the question of what consequences should be attached to the denouement of the Formula 1 season. One thing is undisputed and that is that Max Verstappen is officially world champion and will remain for eternity. In other words, nothing will change on the sporting side of the story. The only question is what will happen structurally and in terms of personnel for the 2022 year. For example, persistent rumors are circulating in the paddock that Mercedes has concluded a deal behind the scenes: let the matter drop and not make it even more dragging in exchange for the departure of Mercedes. Michael Masi as the race director and Nikolas Tombazis as the technical head of the single seater division. Mercedes firmly rejects this suggestion and says it has waived legal follow-up steps due to the promised FIA investigation.
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Despite this, both leaders, with Masi of course the head of Jut, can hardly sleep peacefully. For example, a departure of Masi is obvious, although a complicating factor is that the FIA does not immediately have a dream successor available. After the sudden death of Charlie Whiting, that ideal candidate was not there either and Masi was actually thrown to the lions. Bad luck for the Australian is that in 2021 he was presented with the most intense F1 season ever and was difficult to do well in heated situations – think of Abu Dhabi but also Saudi Arabia.
What does the recent FIA document say?
Although the outcome of the political game between Mercedes and the FIA is certainly not yet certain, the latter party did present the organizational structure – or the FIA administration – for 2022 on Wednesday. Under the single-seaters department is not the name of Masi or Tombazis, but that of Peter Bayer. It has further fueled the rumor mill and has led several media to conclude that Masi and Tombazis have had to leave. Although the latter is entirely possible, that conclusion is formally a bit premature. For example, the FIA has only released part of the organizational structure and has not yet released the complete document.
A look at the 2021 papers shows that Masi and Tombazis were also missing from the initial overview for that year. They could only be found in the full document in the specific organizational structure of the ‘single-seater department’, on page seventeen for the enthusiast. That document has not yet been released for next season, as a result of which the FIA - also when asked by Motorsport.com Netherlands – does not yet provide unequivocal clarity. So yes, Masi has to fear for his position if Mercedes increases the pressure behind the scenes, but no, it is certainly not lost for the Australian yet. But yes: what is not, can still come…