Mercedes has lodged two unsuccessful protests with the FIA over procedures at the end of the season’s final in Abu Dhabi.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was passed for race victory and championship by Red Bull Max Verstappen in the last lap after the race started again with another lap to the end. The race ended in green after a safety car with less than five laps to go was deployed for the Nicholas Latifi crash.
In its protest, Mercedes says F1 officials did not follow rule 48.3 in sports regulations. And the team had a very good case at one of the protests, even if both were rejected on Sunday afternoon.
After the denial, Mercedes he said he would appeal to the International Court of Appeals.
Hamilton was 11 seconds ahead of Verstappen at the time of the warning and had five rounds between him and his title rival. Verstappen was looking for fresh tires during the safety car because he could hit the pits without losing space. Hamilton stayed out because it was not guaranteed that the race would continue and he could be the first to lose to Verstappen.
Those five laps in the lap remained between Hamilton and Verstappen during the safety car period, and F1 said cars could not pass Hamilton and get their lap back. Officials reversed the course with less than two laps to the end and said five cars between the two drivers could regain their lap. This allowed Verstappen to start right behind Hamilton and make a pass to victory in the last lap.
According to Rule 48.3, “any vehicles that have passed in a circle by the leader will have to pass cars in the lead circle and safety car” when F1 officials allow rounded cars to pass the leader. Only five cars between Hamilton and Verstappen were allowed to return to their circle. The other cars circling at the end of the field did not pass Hamilton (and Verstappen) before the race started again.
Furthermore, the rule also says that “unless the track officer considers the presence of a safety car still necessary, after the last car passes the leader, the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the next lap. ”
The last two words of that phrase are key. In its rush to restart the race, F1 waved five cars between two title candidates, albeit in the same lap as the safety car entered the pits. If the rule as it is written was followed, the race would not be restarted because the safety car would enter the pits in the last lap of the race.
Mercedes has also lodged a protest against Verstappen’s 48.8 actions, apparently accusing the Red Bull driver of passing Hamilton while the two drivers were still behind the safety car. That protest on much more dubious grounds was also rejected.
Hamilton easily beat Verstappen that the race turned green during the last five laps of the race. Hamilton had much older tires than Verstappen at the end of the race, but Verstappen failed to close the gap. Hamilton took the lead in the race at the start of the race after getting off the line in front of Verstappen and was not transferred to the track for the lead until the last lap of the race.