Because of one controversial choice, the whole world suddenly knows him. Race director Michael Massey, 42, spent years on the brink of anonymity, but he was in the crosshairs yesterday after his decision that set up the most exciting World Cup ever. Who is the Australian who played a major role in Max Verstappen’s world title?
According to a proverb, the best way to teach a person to swim is to immediately throw it at the deep end. Well, Michael Massey unexpectedly immersed himself in the Formula One circus on March 14, 2019.
The disaster happened three days before the start of the new racing season in Melbourne. Renowned race director Charlie Whiting has died of a pulmonary embolism in his hotel room at the age of 66. Massey, who has only participated in 10 races as a “rookie”, was suddenly forced to take over the position.
The Australian has been active in motorsports since he was 22 years old. Among others, as race director for the Supercar, F2 and F3 Championships. But the role of race director in Formula 1 is of an entirely different size. Few functions are as sensitive as this one.
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What does Massey do? What not… He is responsible for safety on the track (infrastructure, red flag and safety car), leads the technical department, has the responsibility to start a GP and above all: determines what is and is not allowed during the races.
In the event of accidents, Massey decides whether the referees should intervene. Such situations are rarely black or white, and more so gray. Given the intense battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in recent months, all decisions have been under a magnifying glass. After another incident, the team bosses and drivers always turn towards Massey.
“The rules are still not clear,” Hamilton grumbled to this season’s race director. Especially after the Belgian Grand Prix, the Australian was ahead of Gott because he decided to start the race after 3 hours of waiting. To complete two turns barely behind the safety car.
Massey then admitted that this approach was wrong. “But you can learn something every day,” it sounded like a self-critical one.
Safety Car and Max Verstappen at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Let them race
Thus, Massey is not the worst, rather he has a lot of sympathizers in the world. His “let them race” philosophy, which allows for a lot, is highly regarded. Under this banner, for example, we once again flick the black and white flag. “The motorsports version of the yellow card,” according to Massey, who wanted to get rid of many small penalties.
In F1’s rooster world, Massey also moves remarkably anonymously on pasture. Since his arrival, he has not imposed his will in a dictatorial manner, but Massey has entered into an open dialogue with the drivers and teams. “I don’t always agree with them, but I’m always willing to listen,” he said in an interview.
However, towards the end of F1’s enthralling year, those conversations got even more exciting. And then the final race in Abu Dhabi was yet to come…
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It was written in The Stars that Massey would come under fire during the season’s end. Because with every decision that is made, one side will feel hurt.
First it was Verstappen early in the race, when Hamilton got away without a penalty after cutting (forcibly) part of the track.
But on the last lap, the anger turned to the Mercedes camp. Massey, under tremendous pressure, after calling the opposite first, decided to allow the double cars to pass through the safety car. The path to the world title was suddenly completely open for Verstappen.
It was the choice of Massey that decided the world title… At Mercedes they could have wrapped his neck. When team boss Toto Wolff asked the Australian for an explanation, he replied curtly: “It’s a racing game, Toto.”
Soon a lot of criticism rained down on social media. Even prematurely retired driver George Russell immediately expressed his sharp judgment about the race management’s interference. He wrote with the caps locked: “This is not acceptable.” Opinion articles and petitions shouted loudly for Massey’s resignation.
A minority of neutral viewers applauded the Australian for making the bold decision with all eyes. “You have to feel sorry for Massy,” said former driver Nico Rosberg. “He had to cut the knot in 15 seconds under the highest pressure imaginable.”
Suddenly the whole world knows my diamond – what a difference it was a few months ago.
Will he yearn to remain anonymous again?
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