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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff blasts ‘unacceptable’ decision as Max Verstappen beats Lewis Hamilton to F1 title

A late safety car caused chaos at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Verstappen beat Hamilton to the title on the final lap of the season

Jamie Braidwood
Sunday 12 December 2021 20:21 GMT
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Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has called the decision to turn the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix into a one-lap shootout for the title as “unacceptable” in a heated exchange with race director Michael Masi.

Max Verstappen won his maiden F1 championship in dramatic and unbelievable style as the Red Bull driver passed title rival Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the race after benefiting from a late safety car.

Mercedes launched a protest of the race result but Verstappen was confirmed as F1 champion after race stewards dismissed the team’s protest. Mercedes have since lodged a notice of intention to appeal.

Nicholas Latifi’s crash into the wall with four laps of the season-deciding race to go proved decisive in the wild championship battle, as it gave Verstappen the opportunity to pit for fresh soft tyres and line up behind Hamilton as the green flag waved.

But Wolff, after watching a fifth consecutive championship for Hamilton slip away at the final moment, was left furious with race director Masi’s decision to allow five cars to unlap themselves under the safety car, which put Verstappen directly behind Hamilton on the faster set of tyres heading into the final lap of the season.

Masi had previously said that cars would not be allowed unlap themselves but then appeared to reverse his decision, and Verstappen drove a supreme lap to beat Hamilton to the line.

“Michael, you need to reinstate the previous lap. That was unacceptable,” Wolff said on the team radio. “That is not right.”

In response, Masi hit back by arguing: “Toto, that is called motor racing.”

Hamilton congratulated Verstappen after the race and said he will be back next season in a bid to reclaim his title.

“A big congratulations to Max and to his team,” Hamilton said.

“We did an amazing job this year. It’s been the most difficult of seasons, we gave it everything, this last part of the season, we never gave up and that’s the most important thing.”

George Russell, who will join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next season, also sided with Wolff as he watched the closing stages of the races following his early retirement.

“THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!!,” the Williams driver tweeted.

“Max is an absolutely fantastic driver who has had an incredible season and I have nothing but huge respect for him, but what just happened is absolutely unacceptable. I cannot believe what we’ve just seen.”

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