Formula 1: Hamilton and Verstappen crash at 190mph
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F1 race director Michael Masi has defended his decision to offer Red Bull a deal ahead of a race restart after Max Verstappen had illegally overtaken title rival Lewis Hamilton. Masi’s move caused controversy at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with many saying they felt he should not have the power to offer a deal in return for an incident not being referred to the stewards.
It was one of many controversial moments in an incident-hit race which made the first ever Grand Prix in Jeddah one to remember.
The post-race headlines were dominated by yet another collision between the two title-chasers, and their ill-feeling towards each other both during and after what happened.
But there was plenty of drama even before that, despite a clean start to the race from all 20 drivers.
The race was red-flagged when Mick Schumacher lost control and buried his Haas into a tyre wall, with Masi deciding the safety barrier needed to be fixed.
It had barely been under way for a few seconds when Verstappen attempted a daring move around the outside, which saw him overtake Hamilton off the track and Esteban Ocon dive through to overtake them both.
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But they were all brought screeching to a halt again by more red flags, as Charles Leclerc span Sergio Perez before Nikita Mazepin, unable to avoid the chaos that ensued, slammed into the back of George Russell.
With the stewards certain to look at the manner in which Verstappen overtook his title rival, there were question marks over where he would lineup for the second restart.
In a move to pre-empt any arguments over that issue, Masi hopped on the radio to Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley and offered them a deal which would see Verstappen start behind Ocon and Hamilton.
After a moment of deliberation, Red Bull accepted the offer and there was no need for the stewards to get involved.
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But, after the whole exchange was broadcast to fans, some mocked it by comparing it to the game show Deal Or No Deal, while others were left questioning whether it was fair for Verstappen to be given the chance to avoid a penalty.
Masi, however, has insisted that it was within his power to make such an offer and that there was nothing out of the ordinary about the whole situation.
“I wouldn’t call it a deal as from a race director’s perspective I have no authority to instruct the teams to do anything in that situation,” the Australian said after the race.
“I can give them an offer, the ability to do that but the choice is theirs. The stewards are obviously empowered to give penalties but I can give them my perspective.
“That’s why I offered them the ability to give that position up.”
He went on to say that the chat with Red Bull is something that happens “regularly on a number of occasions and has had all year, and previously”.
Masi added: “It was a result of the red flag that came about due to the incident at Turn 3. The priority with any red flag situation is: A, to make sure the drivers are safe, and then to activate the marshals’ recovering with cleaning the track and so forth.
“So it probably seemed a bit elongated compared to normal, however it is very much a normal discussion that takes place. When I saw it happen at Turn 2, I immediately suggested to the stewards that I am going to give the ability to give that place back.
“The red flag obviously ensued very quickly thereafter and that was absolutely the priority before we got going again. Being as we were under the suspension, it was the ability to effectively correct that before we went racing going again.”
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