“Michael, this isn’t right,” complained Mercedes team principal over the radio. His fears were realised as Verstappen took the lead and was crowned champion.
“It’s called a motor race,” said Masi when Wolff complained again. “We went car racing.”
Mercedes appealed, complaining that the regulations had not been followed. Masi gave evidence to the stewards, saying that the purpose of Article 48.12 was to remove lapped cars that would interfere with the leaders — in this case Hamilton and Verstappen.
He also said that teams had agreed that it was “highly desirable for the race to end in a ‘green’ condition (i.e. not under a safety car).”
Stewards dismissed Mercedes’ complaint after finding other areas of regulation that also applied, in addition to Article 48.12.
The first was Article 15.3, which allows the race director to control the use of the safety car — including its deployment and withdrawal, said the stewards.
The second was article 48.13, which sets out that the ‘safety car in this lap’ message is the signal that it will enter the pit lane at the end of that lap.
Stewards found that this overrode Article 48.12, in relation to the safety car returning to the pits at the end of the following lap.
Mercedes has announced its intention to appeal the decision.
The safety car procedure is part of F1’s sporting regulations, and has a defined sequence. Parts of this are set out in article 48.12 and 48.13.
“If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message ‘lapped cars may now overtake’ has been sent to all competitors via the official messaging system, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car.
“This will only apply to cars that were lapped at the time they crossed the line at the end of the lap during which they crossed the first safety car line for the second time after the safety car was deployed.
“Having overtaken the cars on the lead lap and the safety car these cars should then proceed around the track at an appropriate speed, without overtaking, and make every effort to take up position at the back of the line of cars behind the safety car.
“Whilst they are overtaking, and in order to ensure this may be carried out safely, the cars on the lead lap must always stay on the racing line unless deviating from it is unavoidable. Unless the clerk of the course considers the presence of the safety car is still necessary, once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap.”
Article 48.13 (extract)
“When the clerk of the course decides it is safe to call in the safety car the message ‘safety car in this lap’ will be sent to all competitors via the official messaging system and the car’s orange lights will be extinguished. This will be the signal to the competitors and drivers that it will be entering the pit lane at the end of that lap.”