- On the final lap of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, Lewis Hamilton lost the Formula One world championship to Max Verstappen, and Mercedes lost both of its protests.
After Lewis Hamilton has lost the Formula One world title to Max Verstappen on the final lap of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, Mercedes lost both of its protests.
Mercedes petitioned the International Court of Appeal for reconsideration after losing the protests.
After a crash involving Nicholas Latifi brought out on the safety car with only a few laps remaining and confusion surrounding the restart, Verstappen overtook Hamilton on Lap 58 in thrilling fashion.
One of the unresolved protests was whether Verstappen had broken the rules by passing Hamilton before the safety car period had ended while they were jostling next to each other, waiting for the race to resume.
“Although Car 33 (Verstappen) moved slightly in front of Car 44 (Hamilton) at one point, for a very brief time, at a time when both cars were accelerating and braking, it moved back behind Car 44,” stewards concluded. “When the Safety Car period ended, it was not in front (i.e., at the line). As a result, the Protest is thrown out.”
The other point of contention was the restart procedure itself, as well as the number of lapped cars that overtook the safety car after being permitted to do so.
Among the lapped drivers, only Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc, and Sebastian Vettel passed Hamilton and Verstappen, while Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll, and Mick Schumacher did not.
Mercedes claimed that if all of the drivers had overtaken the safety car due to the time constraints, a final lap showdown would have been impossible. The stewards decided that it didn’t matter because the other three didn’t affect the race’s outcome and that race director Michael Masi had authority “to control the use of the safety car” in this case.
Hamilton was on his way to world title No. 8 before Latifi’s crash.
A virtual safety car had been deployed earlier in the race for a smaller crash, but the real one arrived with little time to remove Latifi’s car and clear debris from the track.
Red Bull pitted Verstappen to switch to new tires, while Mercedes stayed out to maintain track position. However, it left Hamilton at the mercy of Verstappen, who was on much faster, fresher tires than Hamilton’s fading, slower tires. They were supposed to get him over the line, but they couldn’t keep up with Verstappen in the end.
Initially, it was decided not to allow lapped cars to pass the safety car, as this would have put several drivers in Verstappen’s way at the restart, making it more difficult to catch up to Hamilton in one lap.
Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, was in radio contact with Masi at the time and said, “(But) we only need one lap” to finish the race properly.
Masi then changed his mind, allowing lapped cars to pass and setting up the final racing lap.
“You have to release the track when everything is clear, so that’s a fair point from the race director,” Verstappen agreed after the race.
After Verstappen made his pass in the fifth turn, Hamilton had one final shot. He was able to bring his Mercedes up to speed with the Red Bull, but he could not pass it. Verstappen became the first Dutch world champion, preventing Hamilton from passing Michael Schumacher as the most successful driver in Formula One history.
Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ CEO, was enraged by the result and demanded that “the last lap be reinstated.”
Masi, on the other hand, was adamant in his response.
“It’s called a motor race, Toto,” he explained. “We went to a car race.”
Verstappen’s driving before the race was restarted, the other point of contention. He was right behind Hamilton at the end of Lap 57 and just ahead of him on Lap 58.
According to the rules, “no driver may overtake another car on the track, including the safety car, until after the safety car has returned to the pits for the first time.”
After the race, Mercedes filed their protests within the allotted 30-minute window.
“No further comment on the details of that until the hearing has been conducted,” the team stated.
“We are disappointed there has been a protest,” Horner said, “but we have faith in the FIA.”
Mercedes’ decision to protest was also brought up, and Verstappen was asked for his thoughts.
“Not much to say about that, but it also sums up a little bit the season,” said Verstappen, who has previously expressed dissatisfaction with penalties he has received, including two in the most recent race in Saudi Arabia.
He’d reacted sarcastically to the decision not to allow lapped cars to pass the safety car.
“Of course, I’m not surprised,” Verstappen said, a resigned expression on his face.
He was overtaking Hamilton on his way to glory minutes later.
Source: CTV News
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