Johnny Herbert gives Michael Masi sack verdict as Lewis Hamilton future hangs in balance

Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing

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Michael Masi’s decision to give Max Verstappen a huge helping hand over Lewis Hamilton in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has ‘done too much damage’ to Formula One according to Johnny Herbert, with the former racing star hinting that he would like Masi ousted from his position as FIA chief.

With Hamilton and Verstappen both going into the race level on 369.5 points, it meant two drivers went into the final clash of the season neck-and-neck for the first time in 47 years.

Hamilton looked set to take a record eighth Drivers’ Championship title at the UAE-based circuit, leading by ten seconds on lap 53 of 58 despite starting second on the grid.

Yet a crash by Nicolas Latifi saw Dutch star Verstappen able to pit for new tyres, allowing him to catch Hamilton after the deployment of the safety car.

Hamilton failed to pit as he did not wish to concede first place, and it seemed as though the race would peter out with the safety car leading the pack with just one lap to go.

However, a decision by Masi to allow the five cars separating the pair to unlap themselves meant that Verstappen was given a clear shot at Hamilton – with his fresh tyres pulling him across the finish in first place to be crowned world champion.

This caused much controversy, with Mercedes launching an instant appeal into the decision.

And Herbert believes that his position of trust has become untenable, with the incident said to have a big influence on whether Hamilton retires over the winter or not.

“I think he has done too much damage to Formula 1 and I think because of the position that he’s in, we have got to have trust,” Herbert told Sky F1.

“I think that trust has completely and utterly evaporated.”

The incident sparked a debate between Mercedes chief Toto Wolff and Masi, with the former claiming that the entirety of the decision-making model in the sport must be changed.

Mercedes still won the Constructors’ Championship, although Hamilton was of course denied a fifth-straight championship.

And that may play a part in the Brit’s future, with reports stating Hamilton has considered the possibility of retiring from the sport as the joint-most successful driver of all-time.

“It’s a bigger problem, my values are simply not compatible with the decisions that were made,” said Wolff, as quoted by the Spanish branch of Motorsport.com.

“It is not just about replacing the race director. The whole decision-making system must be improved.

“It’s one thing to drive hard and have different points of view between drivers and teams, that’s normal.

“But inconsistent decisions inevitably lead to controversy, much of it totally unnecessary.”

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