Formula 1‘s governing body, the FIA, has named Charlie Whiting‘s replacement in race direction for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, after the 66-year-old’s sudden passing on Wednesday night.
Whiting had held all three senior roles, including race director, permanent starter and FIA safety director since the start of the 1997 season.
Australian V8 Supercars deputy race director Michael Masi will take control of all three positions for the season-opening race in Melbourne.
Masi does have previous recent experience in F1, having served on the stewards panel at last year’s Chinese Grand Prix and acted as Whiting’s deputy at a number of grands prix though the 2018 season.
He was also chair of the ABB Formula E stewards during last weekend’s Hong Kong e-Prix.
39-year-old Masi was also expected to shadow Whiting again this season, alongside fellow deputy Scot Elkins, and be race director at every round of the supporting FIA Formula 2 and FIA Formula 3 championships.
An FIA statement, released on Thursday, officially confirmed the changed.
“Appendix 1, Part B of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations for this Event, specifies that Mr. Charlie Whiting shall be the Race Director, the Safety Delegate and the Permanent Starter,” it read.
“In accordance with Article 11.9.3b of the FIA International Sporting Code, the Sporting Regulations shall hereby be amended to reflect Mr. Michael Masi as the Race Director, Safety Delegate and Permanent Starter for this Event.”
Masi’s duties will include holding authority over the stoppage of a session, control over the deployment of the Safety Car, referring noteworthy incidents to the panel of stewards and orchestrating the lights procedure at the start of the race.
He is also in charge of several safety aspects, such as track and track feature conditions and the pitlane speed limit.
Whiting underwent his usual, thorough track walk on Wednesday with the drivers and teams and would have completed many of Masi’s new obligations.
The FIA is yet to announced Masi’s deputy race director for Australia at the time of writing, a role that requires the chosen candidate to oversee the more detailed aspects of the start while the senior race director takes care of the general procedure.
Guenther Steiner, team principal of the Haas F1 Team, said that all the teams must make the FIA’s life as easy as possible while the sizeable changes are made.
“We are here to make it happen for the people that need to step in, because these are big shoes that need to be filled,” Steiner told Autosport.
“In the end we’ll find a solution, there will be meetings to make sure nothing goes through the cracks.
“What we will be doing is supporting whatever the FIA puts in place for this weekend; for this weekend our aim is: if they need our help, we’re here to help.”