F1 race director Michael Masi BROKE his own rules in lapped car controversy that cost Lewis Hamilton in title fight

UNDER-FIRE race director Michael Masi appeared to break precedent with HIMSELF in his controversial safety car call at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The F1 supremo summoned the safety car after Williams driver Nicholas Latifi crashed into a wall with six laps remaining at the season-ending finale.

Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton was leading the race at Yas Marina Circuit, with victory enough to secure a record eighth world title.

Championship rival Max Verstappen was in second but had pitted for a fresh set of tyres, exiting the pits five LAPPED cars behind Hamilton.

Initially Masi indicated no cars would be allowed to unlap themselves before the safety car was pulled in and racing allowed to recommence.

The Australian then stunningly changed his mind – but only allowed the cars between Verstappen and Hamilton to unlap themselves.

That gave the Red Bull man clear air from which to attack the Merc leader and he soon passed him on the dramatic final lap.

And Verstappen nabbed the points he needed to fend off the reigning champ and claim his first drivers’ title.

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But rolling the clock back to the Eifel Grand Prix in October 2020 throws up some uncomfortable reading for Masi.

The chief steward back then was confronted with a similar safety-car conundrum – and this time he allowed ALL lapped cars to go past.

McLaren starlet Lando Norris broke down in a dangerous spot and on came the safety car.

When Masi was criticised for not allowing racing to resume quickly, he defended himself and said: “There's a requirement in the sporting regulations to wave all the lapped cars past.”

Fuming Mercedes bosses will want to know why the 42-year-old did not follow the same mantra last weekend.

Instead he allowed some but not all cars through – giving Verstappen room to attack Hamilton without nuisances in front of him.

And he refused the idea of finishing the race under safety-car conditions – a move that led some fans to question whether he had artificially created the drama.

The official is now reportedly fighting to save his job, with Mercedes set to appeal a decision to reject the protests they lodged immediately after the race.

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