Verstappen confirmed champion but Merc lodge intention to appeal

By Matt Morlidge

Last Updated: 12/12/21 8:20pm

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Max Verstappen reacts to the news that Formula 1 stewards rejected both of Mercedes’ protests to confirm him as world champion for the first time. Warning: These pictures contain flash photography

Max Verstappen reacts to the news that Formula 1 stewards rejected both of Mercedes’ protests to confirm him as world champion for the first time. Warning: These pictures contain flash photography

Formula 1 stewards have rejected both of Mercedes’ protests over the dramatic late stages of the Abu Dhabi GP, confirming Max Verstappen as the race winner and 2021 world champion ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

The drama is not over yet, however, as Mercedes have lodged their intention to appeal the verdicts, which were released long after an extraordinary and controversial race finale.

On Sunday night at least, Red Bull and Verstappen were celebrating his maiden F1 title.

“It’s disappointing we had to go through that,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports News.

“It’s been an amazing year, I’m proud of Max and the whole team. He’s the world champion and the deserving world champion.”

“Relieved,” said Verstappen. “It’s been a very stressful day.”

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Karun Chandhok was at the SkyPad to analyse how Max Verstappen won the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP ahead of Lewis Hamilton

Karun Chandhok was at the SkyPad to analyse how Max Verstappen won the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP ahead of Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes lodged two official protests following an incredible title decider that ended with Verstappen passing Hamilton on the very last lap – one regarding the restart procedure from F1 race director Michael Masi and another alleging that Verstappen overtook Hamilton under the Safety Car.

The team were particularly infuriated by the fact five of the lapped cars that initially separated Hamilton and Verstappen under the Safety Car were allowed to un-lap themselves before the race soon restarted again for the final lap.

The stewards deliberated for over three hours before dismissing both protests.

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Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner says the F1 stewards made the right decision after Mercedes protested against Max Verstappen’s victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner says the F1 stewards made the right decision after Mercedes protested against Max Verstappen’s victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Soon after, Mercedes lodged their intention to appeal and they now have 96 hours to launch an official appeal.

Coincidentally, that timeframe takes them up to Thursday night when Verstappen is due to be crowned champion at the FIA Awards Ceremony.

Why did Mercedes protest and what was the verdict?

It was one of the most remarkable finales to any F1 race let alone the title-decider, and it certainly played into Verstappen and Red Bull’s hands and went against Hamilton and Mercedes. But amid more yet more off-track drama in an incident-filled championship, stewards have ruled that the end of the race did not contravene F1 rules.

The longest wait over a decision was regarding Mercedes’ protest “against the classification established at the end of the competition”, as they alleged a breach of Article 48.12 of the FIA Sporting Regulations, which states that “any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car”.

It also says that “once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap” which, Mercedes argued if complied with, would have resulted in Hamilton winning the race.

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Former F1 world champion Damon Hill believes Max Verstappen was the ‘right man’ to win this season’s title after Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team have their protests rejected by the race stewards in Abu Dhabi.

Former F1 world champion Damon Hill believes Max Verstappen was the ‘right man’ to win this season’s title after Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team have their protests rejected by the race stewards in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton had dominated the race before the late Safety Car, following Nicholas Latifi’s crash, gave Verstappen the chance to stop for soft tyres yet still stay in second place. Verstappen, however, still initially had five cars – Lando Norris, the two Alpines, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel – between him and Hamilton under the Safety Car.

At first, it seemed that Michael Masi and F1 Race Control, who were in contact with all the teams, were not going to move those cars, splitting Verstappen from Hamilton for the resumption.

But late into Lap 57 they allowed just those five cars to pass Hamilton and the Safety Car, even though three cars that had also been lapped – Daniel Riccairdo, Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher – stayed back behind the pack.

Soon after Race Control signalled the end of the Safety Car period, the race was resumed for one final lap and Hamilton was a sitting duck on worn tyres, overtaken by Verstappen into Turn 5.

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Max Verstappen passes Lewis Hamilton on the final lap in Abu Dhabi to win the 2021 F1 Championship!

Max Verstappen passes Lewis Hamilton on the final lap in Abu Dhabi to win the 2021 F1 Championship!

But despite Mercedes’ protests, the F1 stewards rejected their case, prompting late celebrations in the paddock from Red Bull.

Their verdict said they had determined:

“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” has been displayed, it is mandatory to withdraw the safety car at the end of that lap.

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A stunning performance by an extraordinary talent, and an outstanding season of racing: Max Verstappen wins the 2021 F1 World Championship.

A stunning performance by an extraordinary talent, and an outstanding season of racing: Max Verstappen wins the 2021 F1 World Championship.

“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 that the Stewards believe is effectively shortening the race retrospectively, and hence not appropriate.”

What was the other ruling?

Mercedes other protest regarded whether Verstappen overtook Hamilton under the Safety Car, and in the final sector the Dutchman did appear to edge ahead of the slow-moving Mercedes – although pictures weren’t clear-cut.

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Karun Chandhok was at the SkyPad to analyse whether Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton during the safety car at the end of the Abu Dhabi GP after Mercedes launched a protest over the incident.

Karun Chandhok was at the SkyPad to analyse whether Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton during the safety car at the end of the Abu Dhabi GP after Mercedes launched a protest over the incident.

The stewards’ verdict was that the protest was inadmissible, as they reasoned: “Red Bull argued that Car 44 was not “overtaken” by Car 33, that both cars were “on and off the throttle” and that there were “a million precedents” under Safety Car where cars had pulled alongside then moved back behind the Car that was in front.

“The Stewards consider that the protest is admissible. Having considered the various statements made by the parties. The Stewards determine that although Car 33 did at one stage, for a very short period of time, move slightly in front of Car 44, at a time when both cars where accelerating and braking, it moved back behind Car 44 and it was not in front when the Safety Car period ended (i.e. at the line).”

More to follow.

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