FIA’s Michael Masi explains why he handed Red Bull boss Christian Horner warning in Qatar

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FIA race director Michael Masi says he will “defend every volunteer official” at each race after Red Bull boss Christian Horner got into hot water during the Qatar Grand Prix for criticising a “rogue marshal”. Speaking ahead of the race, Horner stated there “needs to be some grown-up decisions made by grown-ups” after Max Verstappen was handed a five-place grid penalty for ignoring double-waved flags during qualifying.

“I’m struggling to understand it,” Horner told Sky Sports F1. “The race director [Masi] effectively said ‘play on, it’s safe, it’s clear’.

“Max was at the beginning of the lap, in the first sector, so he has so much time to look at it. Otherwise, we’d have informed him. Unfortunately, there’s a yellow flag, he just didn’t see it, he even saw a green light on the right-hand side [in the pitlane].

“I think it’s just a rogue marshal that’s stuck a flag out, he’s not been instructed to by the FIA, they’ve got to have control of their marshals, it’s as simple as that, because that’s a crucial blow in this world championship for us.

“Now he’s starting P7 at a track you can’t overtake at. That is massive.”

Horner was summoned to the stewards on Sunday night for the comments after Lewis Hamilton dominated the race, cutting Verstappen’s points lead to just eight with two races remaining.

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Although Horner apologised to the marshal and explained he meant no offence, but was just frustrated by the incident and a lack of consistency regarding penalties.

Referring to Horner’s comments, Masi said: “I think you should not attack any person.

“Particularly when we have thousands of volunteer marshals around the world that give up a huge amount of time globally, without them this sport that everyone has very close to their heart [couldn’t happen].

“All of them give up a huge amount of time. Without them, it won’t happen. That’s the part that a lot of people miss.

“And I will defend every volunteer official and every official at every racetrack around the world, that [such criticism] is not accepted.

“With all yellow flags that are displayed from trackside, they’re in the hands of the officials’ control as they are at every venue anywhere.

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“And if they deem that it’s a single or a double, it’s up to those officials to determine that. And they judge what they see before them.”

The confusion came as double-waved yellow flags were shown via the trackside light panels as AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture and was slowly coming to a stop at the end of the qualifying session.

At the time, only a single-waved flag was being shown by the marshals as Valtteri Bottas, who also picked up a three-place grid penalty, was exiting the final corner.

The same then happened for Carlos Sainz Jnr, who avoided a penalty, as Gasly had come to a complete stop.

Yet as Verstappen reached the start-finish straight, double-waved yellow flags were being shown, as the Dutchman came round to complete his lap.

Explaining what happened, Masi added: “What the locals did, they reacted to the situation before them, and that’s plain and simple.

“If you have a look at what was there and what was happening and with everything with Pierre’s car, they acted upon instinct for what was before them.

“They acted in the best interest of keeping everyone safe on track. And I don’t think anyone should be criticised for acting upon their instincts.”

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