Masi finds himself under intense scrutiny for implementing the rules incorrectly during a late Safety Car period at last year’s season finale at Yas Marina, with his decision to allow only some of the lapped cars to unlap themselves and the timing of the restart setting up a controversial finish. 

A one-lap sprint enabled Max Verstappen - who had pitted under the Safety Car for fresh tyres - to overtake Lewis Hamilton on the last lap and clinch the world championship after his title rival was left exposed on old rubber.

Four-time world champion Vettel defended Masi and stressed he has done “a very good job” since taking on the role following the sudden death of former race director Charlie Whiting on the eve of the 2019 season. 

"For Michael, it has been a pity," Vettel said in a media briefing ahead of his Aston Martin team’s launch of its 2022 car on Thursday. "There are two interests clashing.

"One is the sport and the other is the show. I don't care so much about the show because I look at it as a sport and from a competitive point of view.

"Obviously, it is not the easiest to be in the shoes of the referee, or Michael's shoes, but he has done a great job, particularly after filling in for Charlie Whiting who passed away so suddenly.

"Michael has been very focused and determined to do a good job. I don't know what is in store for his future but I hope he sticks around because overall he has done a very good job.

"There was a lot of controversy surrounding the last race but that shouldn't be, because if you look at the bigger picture he has done really well.” 

Vettel said F1 needs clarity moving forwards to avoid a repeat and urged the world championship to focus on sport rather than entertainment. 

“I’m not a man of the past, so [there’s] not much point looking back too much but I think the main thing is we focus on the sport and not so much on the show,” he explained. 

“I think last year it was always going to be a great final or a great last race because there was one winner and one loser. Ideally you have two winners but that’s not how the sport or any sport is designed, so it wasn’t going to work. 

“Obviously I was in the race and wondering why we were not released earlier in order to get the race started again but I guess there’s a protocol and rules.

"I think the main thing is going forward, there’s clarity in what's happening in these sorts of situations and no questions asked anymore.”

Vettel’s comments were echoed by Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll, who made clear his unhappiness with how the Abu Dhabi finale unfolded.