Mercedes withdraw F1 title appeal as FIA investigates controversial finale


Mercedes will not make any further appeal against the dramatic events in Abu Dhabi which saw Max Verstappen crowned world champion over Lewis Hamilton.

The team, which had already made two unsuccessful protests against the decision which led to Hamilton’s defeat in a last-lap shootout on Sunday, had until Thursday evening to make a final appeal. However, in a statement, Mercedes said that conversations with Hamilton, combined with Wednesday’s announcement by the FIA that it would investigate what happened in Abu Dhabi, meant they would withdraw from taking any further action.

“We left Abu Dhabi in disbelief of what we had just witnessed,” the statement read. “Of course, it’s part of the game to lose a race, but it’s something different when you lose faith in racing. Together with Lewis, we have deliberated carefully over how to respond to the events at the Formula 1 season finale. We have always been guided by our love of this sport and we believe that every competition should be won on merit. In the race on Sunday many felt, us included, that the way things unfolded was not right.

“The reason we protested the race result on Sunday was because the safety car regulations were applied in a new way that affected the race result, after Lewis had been in a commanding lead and on course to win the world championship.

“We appealed in the interest of sporting fairness, and we have since been in a constructive dialogue with the FIA and Formula 1 to create clarity for the future, so that all competitors know the rules under which they are racing, and how they will be enforced. Thus, we welcome the decision by the FIA to install a commission to thoroughly analyse what happened in Abu Dhabi and to improve the robustness of rules, governance and decision making in Formula 1. We also welcome that they have invited the teams and drivers to take part. We will hold the FIA accountable for this process and we hereby withdraw our appeal.”

Formula One’s race director, Michael Masi, an FIA official, had sparked uproar for the way in which he ended a late safety car period in Sunday’s race and handed an advantage to Verstappen, who had pitted for fresh tyres. The usual protocol is for all lapped cars to pass the safety car before racing resumes, but in this case only the cars between Verstappen and Mercedes’s race leader Hamilton, on older tyres, were cleared.

Verstappen then had a clear run to overtake seven-times world champion Hamilton on the last lap of their winner-takes-all battle. Hamilton, the sport’s most successful driver, said over the radio he felt the race had been “manipulated”.

On Wednesday, the International Automobile Federation said in a statement “a detailed analysis and clarification exercise for the future” would be carried out. “This matter will be discussed and addressed with all the teams and drivers to draw any lessons from this situation,” it added.

Mercedes concluded their statement with messages of congratulations to Verstappen and their own drivers and team. “To Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing: we would like to express our sincere respect for your achievements this season. You made this Formula 1 championship title fight truly epic. Max, we congratulate you and your entire team. We look forward to taking the fight to you on the track next season. And lastly, even though this drivers’ championship did not end the way we hoped, we could not be prouder of our team.

Source: The Guardian