Max Verstappen has slated the FIA for throwing Michael Masi "under the bus" in the wake of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix controversy.
The Red Bull driver passed Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the 2021 F1 season to clinch his maiden world championship but his moment was overshadowed by anger over processes used by former race director Masi during a late safety car period.
The Australian was removed from his post and replaced by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas as part of the first steps in rectifying issues within the FIA but addressing his departure at the first pre-season test, Verstappen said it was "not correct".
"Everyone always tries to do their best job and everyone can always use help," explained the Dutchman.
"As drivers, we have the whole team behind us.
"For me, it is really unfair what has happened to Michael because he has really been thrown under the bus.
"Of course, people talk a lot about what was decided in Abu Dhabi but can you imagine a referee in whatever sport has a coach or equivalent screaming in his ear all the time, yellow car, red card, no foul... it is impossible to make a decision.
"So I think in the first place, that F1 already allowed that, that team members could talk to him whilst making decisions is very wrong because it needed to be Michael making the decisions on his own without having people screaming in his ear.
"For those who did sack him to allow that in the first place is, for me, unacceptable and I found it really incredible."
Since Masi was removed, drivers up and down the grid have leapt to his defence with Sebastian Vettel, in particular, outlining the work he had done to ensure the sport was governed correctly during his tenure.
Revealing he had contacted Masi since news broke of his axing, Verstappen added: "I feel really sorry for Michael because I think he was a very capable and good race director.
"I have nothing against the new race directors because I think they are also very capable and very good race directors.
"But personally, for Michael, I felt very sad and I sent him a text as well. Not the right decision and especially, if you put someone next to him... after Charlie died, it is very hard to take over from someone like him.
"He had so much experience from previous years and also, Charlie had help around him and maybe Michael just needed a little bit more.
"Everyone needs experience. When I came into the sport, my first year, if I look at it now, I was a complete rookie. I am 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, was not the right decision but I wish him all the best for whatever comes next. I hope it is better than being an F1 race director."