Who are Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, and why are they replacing Michael Masi in F1?

F1 and the FIA ​​have come under fire over how the final laps were handled in last year’s season finale, prompting the investigation by new FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem at the winter course.

The result sees Masi replaced as F1 race director by WEC race director Eduardo Freitas and former DTM race director Niels Wittich who will alternate the role, while former assistant race director Herbie Blash was appointed as an adviser. main.

Blash acted as the right-hand man to former F1 race director Charlie Whiting until he stepped down as assistant race director at the end of the 2016 season. Since then Blash has worked as a consultant for Yamaha on its World Superbike programme.

Other race control modifications will also be installed this year, with remote assistance from an off-site FIA ​​installation that has been compared to video assistant referee (VAR) in football.

The radio communication between the teams and the race management will also no longer be broadcast, while the relaunch procedure under the safety car will be reviewed.

Who are Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich?

Eduardo Freitas (right) is longtime WEC race director

Eduardo Freitas

Like former F1 race director Charlie Whiting, Eduardo Freitas began his motorsport career as a mechanic, first with a passion for motorcycles before entering the world of karting in 1979.

The Portuguese progressed from a track marshal until he became a race director in karting.

Freitas was working as race director at Estoril in 2002 when he was asked to take charge of the FIA ​​GT and ETCC championships for one season and remained in that role until the end of 2009.

The FIA ​​then promoted Freitas to the FIA ​​GT1 World Championship before becoming Race Director for the World Endurance Championship in 2012. He also acts as Race Director in European Le Mans Series and Asian Le Mans Series .

Niels Wittich

Niels Wittich is the former race director of the DTM series, having stepped down at the end of 2021 when he was already set to move to F1 for 2022 full-time as Michael Masi’s support.

The German had previously been appointed race director for the FIA ​​F2 and F3 championships, while supporting the F1 race director at certain events.

Niels Wittich (right) talks to Lucas Auer

Niels Wittich (right) talks to Lucas Auer

Picture by: Gruppe C GmbH

Why are Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich replacing Michael Masi?

New FIA President Mohammed bin Sulayem, who was elected to replace Jean Todt outgoing just days after the Abu Dhabi GP, made one of his first promises to investigate the F1 race and… adopt changes determined by the results.

Ben Sulayem has announced that Masi will be replaced as F1 race director after his role in the Abu Dhabi final when he only allowed run-in cars between title fighters Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to run , setting up a final-round showdown that the Dutch driver won to clinch his first F1 world title.

This seemed to contradict all previous safety care restart procedures leaving all or none of the spun cars running while the race also started before the end of the lap cars were allowed to pass the leaders as instructed in the F1 rulebook. If this rule had been followed, the race would have ended behind the safety car with Hamilton ahead of Verstappen and therefore 2021 F1 world champion.

As part of the analysis of the Abu Dhabi GP investigation, Ben Sulayem deemed it necessary to replace Masi with Freitas and Wittich who will share the role of F1 race director.

What experience do they have in motorsport?

Eduardo Freitas

Eduardo Freitas has been the ubiquitous race director of the World Endurance Championship since its first race in its current inception in March 2012. He has taken charge of all WEC events, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, while he has over 40 years of experience. motorsport experience.

Niels Wittich

Niels Wittich was most recently DTM race director while also working as part of the F1 race control team at several events in 2021.

Have they ever worked in F1?

Eduardo Freitas

Freitas has not worked directly in F1 before, but has worked alongside Michael Masi and his predecessor Charlie Whiting at FIA conferences and meetings of race directors within the governing body, including the Grand Portugal Prize 2020 in Portimao.

Niels Wittich

Wittich was on duty at several F1 races in 2021 as support for Michael Masi and was set to make that role permanent for 2022 ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP investigation.

Michael Masi, Race Director

Michael Masi, Race Director

Photo by: Jerry André / Motorsport Images

What will change in Formula 1?

Michael Masi will no longer be in charge of Formula 1 racing. Instead, the role will be shared by Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, with the help of Herbie Blash who will take on a senior advisory role, starting from the test of Barcelona pre-season from February 23 to 25.

Race control will also benefit from remote assistance from an off-site FIA ​​facility which will assist the race director with decisions from a virtual race control room. It will be connected in real time to the F1 race director and will help enforce sporting regulations.

Direct radio communications during track sessions between teams and the clerk of the course will be restricted and not broadcast on TV, but teams will still be able to ask questions of the clerk of the course as part of a new, non-intrusive process.

Relaunch procedures behind a safety car at F1 races will also be reviewed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the next F1 committee.

What will happen to Michael Masi?

Michael Masi has been offered a new position within the FIA ​​but will not be involved in setting up F1 race direction. It is believed that the new role offered to Masi will be a security role.

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