Sebastian Vettel, who will race for Aston Martin in what could be his last Formula 1 season, on Thursday defended race director Michael Masi over the controvery around Abu Dhabi grand finale last year. The four-time world champion said that Masi should remain at the position because ‘overall he has done a very good job’. 

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In the Abu Dhabi GP, the race that determined the 2021 champion, Masi ordered the lapped cars between Lewis Hamilton and second-placed Max Verstappen through. This handed the latter, who was on fresh tires, advantage. The Dutchman overtook Hamilton and won the Grand Prix. He was named world champion while the Mercedes driver claimed the result was manipulated. 

In short, Masi’s order cost Hamilton a record eighth title. 

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Amid the controversey, the F1 director was scrutinised and he was accused of bending the rules in Verstappen’s favour. Reports claimed that Masi was likely to be sacked. 

However, Vettel believes that Masi shouldn’t be judged on one incident. Speaking at Aston Martin’s 2022 car launch, the former Red Bull driver said, “For Michael, it has been a pity. There are two interests clashing — one is the sport and the other is the show. I don’t care so much about the show because what I look at is a sport and from a competitive point of view.”

He further added that Michael Masi has been ‘very focused and determined to do a good job’. 

“I don’t know what is in store for his future but I hope he sticks around because overall he has done a very good job,” the German driver said. 

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“There was a lot of controversy surrounding the last race but that shouldn’t be, because if you look at the bigger picture he has done really well. The main thing moving forward is that there is clarity in these situations so no further questions are asked.”

Hamilton and Mercedes are awaiting the outcome of the FIA’s (International Automobile Federation’s) investigation ahead of the new season. The first race of 2022 starts in Behrain on March 20. 

Vettel, who finished 12th in the driver standings last year, will race alongside Canada’s Lance Stroll.  Team principal Otmar Szafnauer has since left and been replaced by former BMW chief Mike Krack.

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“At this stage everyone is hoping to be at the top and we hope we are in a much better shape than last year,” said Vettel. 

“We have the ability this year to develop the car which we didn’t do last year for more than three-quarters of the season.

“I hope the field will be closer and provide us with the chance to race at the front. Last year, we knew from the start it was going to be a long and difficult season so we hope for a better one.”