Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton: Why did FIA stewards reject Mercedes' protests?

  • Kobe Tong

Max Verstappen is the 2021 Formula 1 world champion.

Having entered the season’s dramatic climax at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix level on points with Lewis Hamilton, the Red Bull driver made history after a dramatic final lap at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Verstappen looked destined to lose out to his Mercedes rival until a late safety car ensured that there would be one more racing lap in which he could make the overtake on fresher tyres.

Verstappen wins in controversial style

However, the manner in which Verstappen was able to achieve this wasn’t without controversy as the FIA appeared to be sending mixed messages about how the restart would be conducted.

It seemed at one point that the soon-to-be-lapped cars would not be moved out of the way, but they eventually were in a decision that allowed Verstappen to get up close and personal with Hamilton.

But Mercedes weren’t simply going to let the drama pass them by as they submitted two protests that, had they been successful, could feasibly have seen Hamilton instated as champion.

In the end, though, the decision stood firm with the FIA rejecting Mercedes’ concerns – pending an appeal – to confirm that Verstappen is indeed the driver’s champion for the time being.

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FIA stewards’ decision explained

But how did they come to that conclusion? Well, fear not, because the logic of the FIA stewards has come to light with Sky Sports’ Rachel Brookes revealing the documentation of their decision.

In it, Mercedes’ argument, as well as Red Bull’s defence, is outlined for all to see and the FIA’s reasoning for rejecting the protest rounds things off to put the controversy to bed for now.

The document’s conclusion reads: “The Stewards consider that the protest is admissible. 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.

“Competitors are reminded that they have the right to appeal certain decisions of the Stewards, in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Chapter 4 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits.”


Satisfied, F1 fans? 

Still plenty of debate to be had

No doubt some of you will be and some of you won’t be because there’s no denying that – rule break or not – the very nature of the scenario in which Verstappen emerged victorious has divided people.

Besides, no matter who you support or favour, it most certainly feels wrong that Hamilton essentially missed out on a record-breaking eighth world title because of a crash that was out of his control.

Whichever way you look at it, Hamilton can count himself unlucky, but the extent to which he may or may not have been flat-out let down by the powers that be is for the appeals process to find out.



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