The FIA stewards have dismissed one of the two Mercedes protests over the result of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix , that of the alleged overtaking of Max Verstappen behind the safety car.
” Max Verstappen, you are the F1 world champion!” , his engineer told him over the radio as soon as he crossed the finish line of the Abu Dhabi GP. However, within half an hour after the end of the event, as required by the regulations, Mercedes filed a double protest and the result of the race and therefore the world championship was left up in the air.
Mercedes’ double claim was due to the last laps of the race, after the Safety Car came out due to Latifi ‘s accident (which you can see here). While track officials cleaned the Yas Marina circuit and removed the damaged car, lapped drivers were initially prohibited from overtaking the safety car to make up laps, leaving several cars between Verstappen and Hamilton for the restart.
Then, the drivers who separated the two candidates for the title [ Lando Norris , Fernando Alonso , Esteban Ocon , Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel ] were able to go to the Safety Car, and race management announced that the safety car period would end at the end of the penultimate lap. At that moment, Hamilton slowed the pace as much as he could to try to catch Verstappen by surprise who kept very close to him at all times, even surpassing his rival’s front wing with his front wing by centimeters.
Finally, Hamilton accelerated towards the last corners and held the first laps in the lead, until at turn 5 Verstappen made an overtake that was worth a title.
On the one hand, Mercedes’ protest was about the lapped cars, citing the regulation article that clarifies that “any car that has been lapped by the leader, must pass the cars that are in the leading lap and the Safety Car” .
On the other hand, they claimed that Verstappen had overtaken Hamilton behind the safety car, referring to the article that explains that “no driver may overtake another car on track, including the safety car, until he passes the line for the first time. after the safety car has returned to the pits”.
After listening to the two teams involved, the FIA has issued its first verdict, dismissing the protest regarding overtaking behind the safety car.
“Mercedes alleged that car 33 overtook car 44 during the safety car period at 18:32, in breach of article 48.8 of the 2021 Formula 1 Sporting Regulations,” the stewards’ bulletin said.
“Red Bull argued that Car 44 was not ‘overtaken’ by Car 33, that both cars were ‘pumping the throttle’ and that there were ‘a million precedents’ under Safety Car in which cars had been put to side and then they had stayed behind the car in front.
And although the stewards agreed that Verstappen “at one point, for a very short period of time, moved slightly ahead of car 44, when both cars were accelerating and braking”, he then moved back behind Hamilton and “I wasn’t up front when the Safety Car period ended (ie on the line).”
The bulletin ends by saying: “Accordingly, the protest is dismissed and the protest deposit is not returned.”
The situation of lapped cars being allowed to overtake remains to be resolved, with Mercedes calling for the result of the previous lap to be taken into account, which would give Hamilton the title.