Mercedes protests dismissed; Verstappen confirmed world champion


Mercedes's appeal over the controversial race restart during the Abu Dhabi GP has been rejected


Verstappen is confirmed as the 2021 world champion

Lars Baron/Getty Images

Race stewards at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have rejected the Mercedes protest regarding the unusual restart procedure that set up the end of the race.

It means that Max Verstappen remains the 2021 Formula 1 world champion but Mercedes has indicated that it will appeal.

The title-deciding round in Abu Dhabi ended under controversial circumstances after a crash for Nicholas Latifi brought the safety car out with just a few laps of the season remaining.

Race director Michael Masi speeded up the usual race restart procedure to allow one final lap of racing to take place. It enabled Max Verstappen on much fresher tyres to overtake Lewis Hamilton and become champion.

Stewards found that race director Masi was within his rights to do so, even though he only allowed some lapped cars to unlap themselves — those between Hamilton and Verstappen — and brought the safety car in on the same lap, so racing could resume.

Mercedes argued that there had been two breaches of the sporting regulations. The first related to the restart procedure.

Article 48.12 states: “Any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car” and “once the last lapped car has passed the leader, the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap.”

The stewards decided that the race director has control over the safety car and that it is not necessary to apply the article in full, where it applies to the safety car returning to the pits.

They found that Article 48.13 overrides the previous one with the statement: “Once the ‘safety car in this lap’ message is displayed, the safety car must end at the end of that lap.”

Masi gave evidence as part of the stewards’ investigation, which was summarised in the report: “The race director stated that the purpose of Article 48.12 was to remove those lapped cars that would ‘interfere’ in the racing between the leaders and that in his view Article 48.13 was the one that applied in this case.

“The race director also stated that it had long been agreed by all the teams that where possible it was highly desirable for the race to end in a “green” condition (i.e. not under a safety car)”

Mercedes requested that the results be taken from the previous lap. Stewards rejected this request on the grounds that doing so would have been “shortening the race retrospectively, and hence not appropriate.”

Both teams attended hearings, with Mercedes bringing a barrister alongside team officials.

As the arguments were heard post-race, Red Bull said it was disappointed that Mercedes has protested the results, adding that it was “a race team”, questioning why Mercedes had brought a QC to the season finale.

Mercedes’ other protest over Verstappen ‘overtaking’ Hamilton prior to the safety car restart was dismissed earlier.

Mercedes has said that it intends to appeal the safety car restart decision and has two days to decide whether to take it further. The FIA’s prize-giving ceremony, where the Formula 1 championship trophies are awarded, is due to take place on December 18.