Mercedes drops appeal of F1 officiating that set up Max Verstappen's first world championship

·3 min read

Mercedes is no longer appealing the final laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The team said Thursday that it had dropped its appeal of Formula 1's officiating in the final two laps. The team's inital protest of the way the race played out was denied by the FIA and Mercedes had said it would appeal the denial.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was leading the race by 11 seconds over Max Verstappen with less than five laps to go when Nicholas Latifi crashed. That crash allowed Red Bull's Verstappen to pit for fresh tires without fear of losing second place. F1 officials rushed to get the race restarted and hastily moved the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen out of the way ahead of a one-lap dash to the finish. Verstappen used those fresh tires to pass Hamilton for the race win and the 2021 title.

Here's what Mercedes had to say about dropping its appeal and what transpired over the final two laps. 

We left Abu Dhabi in disbelief of what we had just witnessed. Of course, it’s part of the game to lose a race, but it’s something different when you lose faith in racing.

Together with Lewis, we have deliberated carefully over how to respond to the events at the Formula 1 season finale. We have always been guided by our love of this sport and we believe that every competition should be won on merit. In the race on Sunday many felt, us included, that the way things unfolded was not right.

The reason we protested the race result on Sunday was because the Safety Car regulations were applied in a new way that affected the race result, after Lewis had been in a commanding lead and on course to win the World Championship.

We appealed in the interest of sporting fairness, and we have since been in a constructive dialogue with the FIA and Formula 1 to create clarity for the future, so that all competitors know the rules under which they are racing, and how they will be enforced. Thus, we welcome the decision by the FIA to install a commission to thoroughly analyse what happened in Abu Dhabi and to improve the robustness of rules, governance and decision making in Formula 1. We also welcome that they have invited the teams and drivers to take part.

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas team will actively work with this commission to build a better Formula 1 – for every team and every fan who loves this sport as much as we do. We will hold the FIA accountable for this process and we hereby withdraw our appeal.

Did F1 follow the correct race procedures?

Mercedes filed two protests after the race. One concerned Verstappen's actions before the race restarted. That was quickly dismissed. The other protest concerning the race procedures had a lot more validity and was the one that Mercedes was appealing.

According to F1 rules, "any" lapped cars are supposed to overtake the safety car when instructed to do so. The only lapped cars that overtook the safety car to rejoin the queue at the back of the field on the penultimate lap were the five cars between Hamilton and Verstappen. The lapped cars behind Verstappen were not waved through. 

The cars were waved through after F1 said that they weren't going to let the lapped cars overtake the safety car. Keeping the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen could have allowed Hamilton to maintain his advantage and win the title.

The F1 rules also say that the safety car returns to the pits after the lapped cars are waved through on the "following" lap. The lapped cars were waved through just seconds before the safety car entered the pits before the final lap. 

The FIA denied Mercedes' protest of the race procedures by saying that race director Michael Masi had leeway to take different actions.

Had Hamilton won the race he would have won an F1-record eighth world title. He had the race seemingly in hand until the caution flag because of his big lead over Verstappen. 

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