The FIA’s decision to dismiss Mercedes’ protests concerning the events of last night’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was because of the desire to have the race finish under green flags and because of the total authority of the Race Director.
Mercedes lodged two protests after the chequered flag. The first regarded Max Verstappen overtaking Lewis Hamilton behind the safety car before the last lap restart.
The FIA’s investigation results determined “Car No.33 (Verstappen) did, for a very short period, move slightly in front of Car No.44 (Hamilton).”
However, Mercedes lost their protest because Verstappen was not in front when the safety car period ended, and he slotted back behind Hamilton quickly after moving ahead.
The second protest is more complex because of a contradiction in the rules.
It involved the situation of allowing the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen past the Mercedes car before the restart.
There were eight cars a lap down on Hamilton at the time.
Mercedes questioned why all lapped cars were not permitted to move past, which would have taken longer.
Yet Red Bull, who were present at the hearing, defended themselves by highlighting the particular rule says “any cars lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car,” and ‘any’ does not mean ‘all’.
Mercedes argued another rule which says, “once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap.”
If this rule had been followed, the race should have ended under the safety car, and Hamilton would have won the race and the championship.
However, the following sporting article says when race control calls “safety car in this lap,” that rule overrides the regulation concerning lapped cars.
The stewards said it is up to Race Director Michael Masi to have full authority over the safety car and when it returns to the pitlane.
Masi also said it was a top priority to have the race finish under green flag conditions.
After learning the protest results, Red Bull says Mercedes were a bit desperate with their claims.
“It felt a little bit desperate. But we didn’t want it to finish in front of the stewards,” team boss Christian Horner said.
“They’ve been great competitors this year. And Lewis has been a phenomenal driver.
“It’s had its moments. It’s been tense. It’s been tough. But we’re just delighted with the outcome.”
Meanwhile, Mercedes have confirmed they intend to appeal the decision, meaning this year’s title fight is still yet to have its last word.