Mercedes’ appeals against Max Verstappen’s last-lap victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have been rejected by the FIA, meaning the Dutchman’s first championship title has officially been approved.
Mercedes, however, will formally lodge an appeal into the controversial end to the race, where FIA director Michael Masi effectively left Lewis Hamilton as a sitting duck to the Dutchman.
The Red Bull driver stormed past title rival Hamilton in the closing stages of the season-ending race in hugely controversial circumstances, having benefited from a late safety car that bunched up the pack.
After Nicholas Latifi crashed in the final laps of the race, Masi made the decision to allow lapped cars to pass the safety car – meaning Verstappen had a clear run at Hamilton in the final lap and on much faster tyres.
He subsequently went onto overtake the Brit to win and deny Hamilton a record-breaking eighth championship victory.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was absolutely livid with Masi’s call and subsequently lodged two formal complaints to dispute the decision, giving Verstappen a nervous wait to see if his maiden Formula One world championship would be taken away.
Both, however, have been dismissed after the two teams spent hours in the stewards’ office, Verstappen able to toast his title more than four hours after crossing the finish line.
A statement on the decision read: “Having considered the various statements made by the parties the Stewards determine the following:
That Article 15.3 allows the Race Director to control the use of the safety car, which in our determination includes its deployment and withdrawal.
“That 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.
“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.
“Accordingly, the Protest is dismissed. The Protest Deposit is not refunded.”
Mercedes have confirmed they have lodged an intention to appeal the verdict of the second protest dismal, which relates to the Safety Car protocol.
They have 96 hours to formalise that.
Verstappen embraced Red Bull team boss Christian Horner after being informed of the final result.
Asked if he was relieved, the driver told Sky Sports: “Very, (it was) a very stressful day.”
And Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admitted he was ‘disappointed’ that he had to go through the process.
He told Sky Sports News: “Its’s disappointing we had to go through that. 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.”