Max Verstappen F1 champion after Mercedes protests rejected at Abu Dhabi GP

Formula 1 stewards have rejected both of Mercedes’ protests over the dramatic late stages of the Abu Dhabi GP, confirming Max Verstappen as the race winner and 2021 world champion ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

The drama is not over yet, however, as Mercedes have lodged their intention to appeal the verdicts, which were released long after an extraordinary and controversial race finale.

On Sunday night at least, Red Bull and Verstappen were celebrating his maiden F1 title.

“It’s disappointing we had to go through that,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner, who three times went to see stewards after the race along with Mercedes team representatives, told Sky Sports News.

“It’s been an amazing year, I’m proud of Max and the whole team. He’s the world champion and the deserving world champion.”

“Relieved,” said Verstappen. “It’s been a very stressful day.”

Mercedes lodged two official protests following an incredible title decider that ended with Verstappen passing Hamilton on the very last lap. One was regarding the restart procedure from F1 race director Michael Masi, and another alleging that Verstappen overtook Hamilton under the Safety Car.

The team were particularly infuriated by the fact five of the lapped cars that initially separated Hamilton and Verstappen under the Safety Car were allowed to un-lap themselves before the race soon restarted again for the final lap, which Verstappen had a huge tyre advantage for.

The stewards deliberated for over three hours before dismissing both protests.

Soon after, Mercedes lodged their intention to appeal and they now have 96 hours to launch an official appeal.

Coincidentally, that timeframe takes them up to Thursday night when Verstappen is due to be crowned champion at the FIA Awards Ceremony.

Why did Mercedes protest and what was the verdict?
It was one of the most remarkable finales to any F1 race let alone the title-decider, and it certainly played into Verstappen and Red Bull’s hands and went against Hamilton and Mercedes. But amid more yet more off-track drama in an incident-filled championship, stewards have ruled that the end of the race did not contravene F1 rules.

The longest wait over a decision was regarding Mercedes’ protest “against the classification established at the end of the competition”.

They alleged a breach of Article 48.12 of the FIA Sporting Regulations, which states that “any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car”.

It also says that “once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap” which, Mercedes argued if complied with, would have resulted in Hamilton winning the race and subsequently the title.

Hamilton had dominated the race before the late Safety Car, following Nicholas Latifi’s crash, gave Verstappen the chance to stop for soft tyres yet still stay in second place. Verstappen, however, still initially had five cars – Lando Norris, the two Alpines, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel – between him and Hamilton under the Safety Car.

Source: Sky Sports

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