Mercedes lodge protest against Max Verstappen’s win over Lewis Hamilton in F1 title showdown

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Mercedes lodge protest against Max Verstappen's win over Lewis Hamilton in F1 title showdown

Max Verstappen’s title victory at Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix could be in doubt after Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team protested the result of Sunday’s race.

Verstappen claimed an astonishing victory and first championship by catching and passing Hamilton after a late safety car restart on the final lap of the race.

However, the way the restart panned has become the focus of Mercedes’ protest, arguing that the FIA did not follow its own procedure and that Verstappen briefly passed Hamilton on track before the race got back underway.

When asked about the protest after the race, Verstappen referenced Red Bull and Mercedes’ bitter 2021 title battle.

“Not much really to say about that,” he said. “I think it also sums up a little bit this season.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes team were furious at how the situation unfolded after FIA race director Michael Masi made a decision to only allow the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves rather than the entire field.

That decision put Verstappen on Hamilton’s tail when racing resumed for the final lap, with Verstappen passing Hamilton at Turn 5 with the help of fresher tyres he fitted at the start of the safety car period.

Under normal circumstances and according to Article 48.12 of the Sporting Regulations, all lapped cars are allowed to unlap themselves before a safety car restart so that they are in positional order when the racing gets back underway.

It seems that Mercedes is arguing that race control’s decision to let just five cars through was both unprecedented and not covered by the regulations.

Race control had initially indicated that no cars would be allowed to unlap themselves — presumably so that the race could get back underway before the final lap — but then changed that decision to five cars after Red Bull team boss Christian Horner radioed Masi to raise his objection to the original decision.

When Masi gave permission for the five cars unlap, it effectively gave Verstappen a clear shot at the victory as his fresh soft tyres gave him a significant performance advantage over Hamilton’s 43-lap old hard tyres.

Mercedes also protested Verstappen under Article 48.8 of the regulations, which says that once the safety car is returning to the pits no one is allowed to overtake the lead car. Verstappen drew level with Hamilton in the final sector of the lap and appeared to briefly move ahead of the Mercedes before the restart got underway.

Representatives of the Mercedes and Red Bull teams will attend a stewards hearing at 8:15 pm local time.