FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi says Supercars stalwart and current race director Tim Schenken has played a significant role in his motorsport journey and has been an immense influence in aiding him to develop into the position which he proudly holds today.
Masi was given the reins to the F1 race director position in sombre circumstances following the tragic passing of Charlie Whiting ahead of the 2019 Australian Grand Prix.
Masi had joined the FIA at the start of the year as race director for the Formula 2 and 3 series’ and was set to work as deputy F1 race director alongside Whiting before suddenly finding himself swimming in the deep end as Whiting’s replacement.
Masi, who was previously overseeing the role as deputy race director for the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, had caught Whiting’s eye due to his “great attention to detail” and “being an extremely hard worker.”
But it was his Supercars position and the influence of Schenken which Masi accredits to his ability to expertly operate the most coveted motorsport tier in the world.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s second successive Grand Prix at the Red Bull in Austria, the same venue Schenken scored his sole F1 podium in 1971 with a Jack Brabham-prepared BT33, Masi reflected on the significant influence Schenken had on preparing and nurturing him into the role of race director.
“My first interaction with Tim was the 1999 Bathurst 500 Supertourer event,” Masi told the Beyond the Grid podcast. “It was atrocious weather and he was the clerk of the course and I was looking after one of the teams. I think that interaction was an abusive one both ways.
“But Tim and I really got to know each other when I started working TEGA (Touring Car Entrants Group Australia) which was the 75% owner of Supercars in 2003, and in 2004 was when I started travelling with the race director and the stewards and effectively was the stewards’ secretary assistant and our relationship developed from there.
“I was with Supercars in that role and developed into a race control assistant role until 2008 and then I got headhunted at CAMS to work with Tim.”
Masi then became responsible for running Supercars event at Schenken’s side until 2018. However, the pair did venture away from the touring car scene occasionally to fulfil positions with the Singapore and now-defunct Korean F1 Grands Prix and Rally Australia.
Masi then had infrequent roles within the F1 paddock, the most recent before his promotion to race director acting as a steward for the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix.
And it was not only race control in which Masi had influence over the governing over the Supercars series.
Masi had a firm role in the Supercars commission under the watchful eye of voluble five-time series champion Mark Skaife to whom he still remains in contact with today.
“Then working with Tim in Singapore and Korea, and obviously we did Rally Australia after which I moved to Melbourne and worked with Mark Skaife,” he explained.
“Mark was the chairman of the Supercars Commission at the time and he twisted my arm and said ‘why don’t you do some stuff for me and some stuff for Supercars and then go back to working in your role at race control.”
When quizzed on the paternal role Schenken had on his young career, Masi did admit initially he struggled to really gain an understanding into how Schenken operated.
But over time his influence became unprecedented and Masi recognises the unparallel support of Schenken served him well when it came to directing his debut Grand Prix without any firm experience.
“When I first started, Tim was a hard nut. Grandchild certainly mellowed him a lot, but he has since been an immense influence.”
“Understanding the race control side of it came more and more open as the discussions went on and went back to that trust and relationship side of working together. Tim still, to this day, brings on a weekly basis a text message or an email to see how things are going and to say well done.
“There is a huge amount of respect [between us]. When you spend 18 to 20 weekends a year and it becomes 6-7 day weeks from the moment of arrival at the airport to the moment you arrive home there is a bond of different ways.
“He has been a significant part of that learning race control and race operational journey. He has had a big influence on my career.”
Masi will once again be overseeing this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring which gets underway with FP1 tonight from 9 pm NZT.