Mercedes to appeal Championship title decision, declare 'breach' of regulationstext_fields
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix remains a topic of heated discussion long after Max Verstappen crossed the finish line to become Formula One's first Dutch champion, as his rival team Mercedes have filed an appeal against stewards dismissing their petition against the unlapping of cars under saefty car on the penultimate lap which allowed Verstappen to overtake Lewis Hamilton.
"No Mikey, no Mikey, that was so not right," a furious Mercedes team head Toto Wolff was heard saying to race director Michael Masi on the radio after the restart on Lap 58 allowed Verstappen to pull away from Hamilton. He later demanded the standings of the lap before be reinstated upon which Masi brusquely replied that it was 'motor racing' and that no such decision would be made.
Mercedes lodged two complaints with the stewards regarding the decision. They relate to alleged breaches of relating to alleged breaches of Articles 48.8 and 48.12 of the FIA Sporting Regulations.
Article 48.8 prevents cars from overtaking others until a safety car has returned to the pits while 48.12 specifies that any lapped cars will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car. Drivers Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were told to pass the safety car ahead of the restart on Lap 58 while three other drivers were not, allowing Verstappen to rejoin second and beat Hamilton.
A safety car was brought out on Lap 54 after Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barriers.
After lengthy deliberations, the stewards upheld Verstappen's World Championship title, citing that the race director had the power to manage the use of the safety car under Article 48.13.
"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," the official statement released by Formula One says.
"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...Acordingly, the Protest is dismissed," it reads.
The petition regarding an alleged overtake by Verstappen under the Safety Car, was also dismissed.
A statement from a Mercedes spokesperson just after the decision was made announced the team's intention to appeal the decision. The team have 72 hours to decide whether to appeal fully. Michael Masi defended his decision as one which had restored fair racing amongst the title contenders rather than interfering.
The post-race drama has elicited strong reactions from netizens and fans of the sport with many remaining divided over the FIA's clear violation of rules. The fIA and director Masi were already under a cloud of suspicion regarding irregularities in penalty decisions following the chaotic Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
"Max is an absolutely fantastic driver who has had an incredible season and I have nothing but huge respect for him, but what just happened is absolutely unacceptable. I cannot believe what we've just seen," said Williams pilot George Russell on Twitter. George is due to replace Mercedes' Valterri Bottas next season as Hamilton's teammate as the Finn moves to Alfa Romeo.