Former F1 race director Michael Masi says he felt like “the most hated man in the world” and has revealed he received death threats following last year’s controversial title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Masi was sacked after his incorrect application of the rules during a late Safety Car at the 2021 Abu Dhabi finale altered the outcome of the world championship, enabling Max Verstappen to beat Lewis Hamilton to the drivers’ crown on the last lap.
The Australian has kept a low-profile ever since Abu Dhabi but recently broke his silence after his departure from the FIA was formally announced earlier this month.
An FIA inquiry into the contentious finale stated that Masi had acted in “good faith” and concluded that “human error” was to blame for the handling of the Safety Car restart.
Speaking in his first interview since the December 12 race, Masi opened up about the level of abuse he was subjected to in the wake of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“There were some dark days,” Masi told News Corp.
“Absolutely, I felt like I was the most hated man in the world. I got death threats. People saying they were going to come after me and my family.”
Masi added: “I still remember walking down the street in London a day or two later. I thought I was OK until I started looking over my shoulder.
“I was looking at people wondering if they were going to get me.”
Masi revealed he was confronted with “hundreds of messages” on Facebook and LinkedIn.
“They were shocking,” he said. “Racist, abusive, vile, they called me every name under the sun.
“And they kept on coming. Not just on my Facebook but also on my LinkedIn, which is supposed to be a professional platform for business. It was the same type of abuse.”
Masi, who did not seek professional help, admitted he struggled to deal with the abuse.
“I didn’t want to talk to anyone,” he said. “Not even family and friends. I only talked to my close family – but very briefly.
“It did have a physical impact, but it was more mental. I just wanted to be in a bubble. I had no desire to talk to them. I just wanted to be alone, which was very challenging.
“The whole experience has made me a much stronger person.”
Masi’s revelation comes a day after F1 launched their ‘Drive It Out’ campaign to stamp out all kinds of abuse, both online and at events.