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Lewis Hamilton could have a decisive role in the fate of F1 race director Michael Masi as it emerged drivers will discuss the findings of an investigation into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Masi was heavily criticised for his handling of the controversial season finale which saw Hamilton miss out on a record eighth world title when he allowed a final lap-shootout with Max Verstappen.
Speculation over his future ramped up this week when the FIA's new head of F1, Peter Bayer, admitted the Australian could be replaced before the start of the new season in March. But in a statement issued on Saturday, the FIA insisted that while Masi's position remained safe for the time being, drivers will be given the chance to air their views when the investigation is completed.
The analysis is set to be announced at an F1 Commission meeting on Feb 14 with any subsequent results approved at the World Motor Sport Council meeting in Bahrain on March 18. Hamilton has yet to commit to a return to the sport and is understood to be waiting to see what actions the FIA are prepared to take.
Mercedes has previously denied a “quid pro quo” deal with the FIA agreeing to remove Masi in exchange for dropping their appeal to the result at Yas Marina on December 12.
The governing body said: "At this stage, no decision has been taken on the outcome of the detailed analysis currently underway into the events of the last Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
"As previously announced, the findings of this detailed analysis will be presented at the F1 Commission meeting in London on 14th February after an open discussion with all F1 drivers and then finally have to be approved at the World Motorsport Council meeting on 18th March in Bahrain, under the authority of FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem."
The FIA began their investigation a couple of weeks ago after a break for Christmas amid exasperation behind the scenes at the length of time it has taken to act.
Earlier this week, Bayer, the man charged with conducting the investigation into what happened at Abu Dhabi, admitted Masi could be replaced in an interview with Austrian journalist Gerhard Kuntschick "Michael did a super job in many ways. We told him that. But also that there is a possibility there could be a new race director," he said.
Masi's job as FIA race director under threat over handling of Abu Dhabi GP
By Tom Cary
The FIA has admitted for the first time that Michael Masi could be fired from his role as race director.
The Australian was heavily criticised for his handling of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last month when Lewis Hamilton was controversially denied a record eighth world title.
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, accused Masi of adopting a “freestyle reading of the rules” after he allowed a final lap-shootout shootout following a safety car period. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was on brand new tyres at the time, having just pitted, ended up passing Hamilton to claim his maiden world title.
Mercedes failed with two protests but decided against appealing the result after the FIA, motorsport’s governing body, agreed to conduct a “robust” review into what happened. There were also rumours, which were denied by both parties, of a “quid pro quo” deal with the FIA agreeing to remove Masi in exchange for Mercedes dropping their appeal.
The FIA has now admitted for the first time, however, that Masi could lose his job. Peter Bayer, newly appointed as the FIA's head of F1, and the man charged with conducting the investigation into what happened, told Austrian journalist Gerhard Kuntschick: "Michael did a super job in many ways. We told him that.
"But also that there is a possibility there could be a new race director."
That would appear to be stating the obvious given Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are still furious, with the latter unwilling to commit to returning to the sport until he has seen what actions the FIA are prepared to take. They will expect Masi to leave at the very least.
The rest of Formula 1 expects the same. There is an exasperation behind the scenes at the length of time it has taken the FIA to act.
They only began their investigation a couple of weeks ago after a break for Christmas, with “detailed analysis” to be announced at the F1 Commission meeting on Feb 14 and “final results” at the World Motor Sport Council meeting in Bahrain on March 18.
Privately, the expectation is that Masi - who was already under considerable pressure even before Abu Dhabi - will be asked to leave. The difficulty is knowing who to install in his place with very few qualified to do the job. Scott Elkins, the Formula E race director, is one name which has been mentioned. Whoever gets it, there will be a beefing up of the support structure around the race director as well as a restructure of the decision-making apparatus.
"(We are looking at) dividing the various tasks of the race director, who is also sports director, safety and track delegate,” Bayer admitted "That was simply too much. These roles are divided between several people. This reduces the burden on the race director."
Bayer confirmed that a revision of the safety-car rules was also being considered.
And he said the FIA was considering setting up a "mission control" at its base in Geneva - similar to the remote strategy groups the F1 teams operate over race weekends - to support the race director.
He confirmed that team principals would no longer be able to talk directly to the race director, which was a feature of last season with Wolff and Red Bull’s Christian Horner both frequently seen lobbying on their drivers' behalves.
"The team managers will still be able to [talk to the race director]- they have to be able to ask questions," Bayer said.
"We want to build in a buffer with an employee who accepts these requests.
"In the future, the race director will be able to concentrate on his task and will no longer be distracted."
Meanwhile, talks are progressing over a Las Vegas grand prix with the race potentially returning to the calendar as soon as next year. Formula 1 last raced there in the early 1980s. The Telegraph understands organisers are looking at an autumn date, when the heat is not as intense, possibly as part of the Texas-Mexico swing. It would be a street race taking in Las Vegas’ famous Strip, and could be timed to coincide with other big sporting events such as a world title fight.