Masi was replaced as race director after failing to correctly follow the FIA’s sporting regulations during the late Safety Car period at the Yas Marina Circuit in December.

His decisions allowed Verstappen to have a clear run at overtaking Lewis Hamilton to claim his maiden F1 title.

For this season, Masi has been replaced by two new race directors who will alternate, while the FIA has introduced a Virtual Race Control Room, which has been likened to VAR in football.

Speaking during the first test in Barcelona, Verstappen thinks that the FIA ‘threw Masi under a bus’, describing the decision to replace him as race director as “very unfair”.

“I think it’s not correct. Everyone always tries to do the best job and everyone can always use help, us drivers also, we have a whole team behind us, to improve ourselves,” Verstappen said.

“For me it is very unfair what happened to Michael because he’s really been thrown under the bus, and of course people talk a lot about what was decided in Abu Dhabi but can you imagine a referee in whatever sport has the coach or equivalent screaming in his ear all the time ‘yellow card, red card, no decision, no foul’, it’s impossible to make a decision.

“So that F1 already allowed that, that team members could talk to him while making decisions, is very wrong, because it needs to be… needed to be Michael making the decisions on his own without having people screaming in his ears. The people who did sack him allowed him in the first place, for me is unacceptable, and now basically just, yeah, sacked him. I found it really incredible.”

Also as part of the FIA’s wider changes for this year, Herbie Blash - former senior advisor to the late Charlie Whiting - is making a return to support the current team.

Verstappen suggested that the FIA should have better supported Masi, rather than replacing him, using his own experiences in F1 as an example.

“I feel really sorry for Michael, I think he was a very capable and good race director, I have nothing against the new race director, I think they’re also good and capable race directors, but personally and for Michael I felt really sad and I sent him a text as well,” he added. “Not the right decision.

“And especially I do think if you maybe would have put something next to him… after Charlie died it was very hard to take over from someone like him, he had so much experience from previous years, and Charlie had help around him, and maybe Michael just needed a little bit more.

“Everyone needs experience. I mean I came into the sport, my first year, a complete rookie, now I’m so much further than what I was back then, and I think it would have been the same for Michael. To immediately sack him for me is not the right decision but I wish him the best with whatever comes next and I hope it’s better than being the F1 race director.”