Following the controversial ending to the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi, the FIA announced their decision to replace Michael Masi at the start of the year.
As part of the FIA’s restructuring for this season, two new race directors were introduced; Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas. Acutely aware of the pressure faced by F1’s race director last year, it was concluded that having two race directors would be the best course of action. In a public statement, the FIA explained their alteration for this season, which was motivated by an attempt to alleviate pressure from the race directors.
After a relatively uncontroversial start to the season, a report from last week sparked both amusement and concern among fans. Both Wittich and Freitas, who alternate their responsibilities as race directors, tested positive for Covid-19 just last week.
BREAKING: SSN understands that both F1 Race Directors Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich have tested positive for Covid ahead of the Miami GP 👇pic.twitter.com/oNbVV5yw04
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) April 27, 2022
The story quickly caught aflame on social media, with some suggesting that Michael Masi – in the event neither Wittich of Freitas could attend – would serve as race director for the inaugural Miami GP. This was not an unreasonable suggestion, as this was one of the reasons why Michael Masi’s position as race director – even after the controversy of Abu Dhabi – was not seen as terminal. Whilst Masi is not the only person to have taken the mantle of race director, the position has not been held by many. Post-Abu Dhabi, it was speculated that due to the unique nature of the position, there was nobody with the suitable experience to replace Masi.
Of course, this hypothesis did not last long, with Masi’s replacements being announced about a month before the 2022 season began. Still, it was this same line of thinking – perhaps alongside an urge from some fans to poke fun at the situation – that saw many floating the idea of Michael Masi filling in as race director for the Miami GP this weekend.
However, Sky F1’s Craig Slater reports that Niels Wittich has tested negative for Covid-19, and will be ready to supervise the action this weekend. Given the state of the championship thus far, with Ferrari and Red Bull exchanging blows in the opening rounds of the season, Wittich will work to maintain the cordial relations that – at least for now – exist between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen.