Max Verstappen confirmed F1 champion after Mercedes protest of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix result dismissed

Mercedes protested after a wild last lap in Abu Dhabi saw Verstappen pass Lewis Hamilton for the race win and the title

Jamie Braidwood
Sunday 12 December 2021 19:51 GMT
Max Verstappen prevails in F1 world title shoot-out after beating Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen’s Formula One world championship has been confirmed after Mercedes’ protest of the result at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was dismissed by race stewards.

In response, Mercedes have lodged a notice of intention of appeal, which gives the team 92 hours to formally submit a second protest of the race result.

Verstappen beat rival Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of a controversial title-decider at the Yas Marina Circuit, but Mercedes were left furious at how the conclusion of the race unfolded.

Verstappen, who pitted under the safety car that followed Nicholas Latifi’s late crash, switched to a fresh set of soft tyres which gave him the advantage over Hamilton in the dramatic last-lap shootout for the championship.

But Mercedes were aggrieved with race director Michael Masi’s decision to allow five cars to unlap themselves under the safety car, which put Verstappen directly behind Hamilton heading into the final lap of the season. Mercedes argued that not all lapped cars were allowed to overtake the safety car during that time.

Mercedes launched two protests - one that Verstappen overtook Hamilton under the safety car, and the other concerning the lapped cars - but both appeals were dismissed by race stewards.

“I’m very relieved,” Verstappen said after his championship was confirmed, more than four hours after he crossed the line under the chequered flag. “It’s been a very stressful day.”

“We never wanted to end up in front of the stewards,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner added. “We don’t go racing with barristers. It was a shame it ended up there but the stewards made the right call.”

Mercedes argued that Hamilton would have won the race had the sporting regulations been complied with. Both Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and Hamilton left the Yas Marina Circuit following the FIA’s decision without speaking to the media.

In explaining its ruling, the FIA stated: “Having considered the various statement made by the parties the stewards determine the following:

“That Article 15.3 allows the race director to control the use of the safety car, which in our determination includes its deployment and withdrawal.

“That although Article 48.12 may not have been applied fully, in relation to the safety car returning to the pits at the end of the following lap, Article 48.13 overrides that and once the message ‘safety car in this lap’, it is mandatory to withdraw the safety car at the end of that lap.

“That notwithstanding Mercedes’ request that the stewards remediate the matter by amending the classification to reflect the positions at the end of the penultimate lap, this is a step stewards believe is effectively shortening the race retrospectively, and hence not appropriate.”

Hamilton congratulated his title rival after the race, at the end of one of the most dramatic seasons in the history of the sport. Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth championship after leading for the majority of the race.

“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.”

Mercedes boss Wolff was furious with race director Masi during the wild closing stages of the season, arguing on his team radio: “Michael, you need to reinstate the previous lap. That was unacceptable. That is not right.”

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