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Mercedes Abandons Appeal Of Race Director’s Decisions Which Gifted F1 Title To Verstappen

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Mercedes has decided not to pursue their appeal against the race director-influenced results of the 2021 Formula One title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

With less than five laps remaining in the race and seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton leading comfortably over Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, it appeared as though Hamilton was on his way to an eighth F1 title until Williams’ Nicholas Latifi crashed, bringing out the rules-required safety car – but from that point on, race director Michael Masi began to make curious and confusing decisions that directly contradicted the FiA [F1 governing body] rules regarding safety car.

With Hamilton leading the slow parade laps on old, hard tires, he and Mercedes elected to remain on the track for what was expected to be a race finish under a yellow caution while Verstappen pitted for fresh, soft tires, hoping to make a last-ditch effort to get past lapped cars and close enough to Hamilton to make a run at him before the race’s end.

However – inexplicably – Masi ignored several FiA rules by not allowing some lapped cars to move past the safety car but only allowed those lapped cars in between Hamilton and Verstappen to move past the safety car as well as pulling in the safety car a lap early – thus clearing the way for Verstappen [who had the distinct advantage of fresher, grippier tires] to pass Hamilton in a one-lap restart. No official reason or statement for why the decisions were made to clearly go against the rules in that scenario have yet been forthcoming from Masi or the FiA.

For their part, Mercedes appealed to the race stewards but both appeals were rejected with the explanation that Masi enjoys “overriding authority” to essentially do as he pleases without specific regard to following the rules, and therefore, his decisions are final and cannot be contested.

Mercedes decided not to appeal further to the FiA as the governing body’s international court of appeal is not composed of neutral members and Mercedes felt they would merely back Masi’s inexplicable actions, as the race stewards did.

The FiA, meanwhile, promised to conduct a “detailed analysis” of the end of the race and Mercedes said they “welcomed” the move and would “hold the FIA accountable”.

Mercedes’ team principal, Toto Wolff, says both he and Hamilton were left “disillusioned” with the events of the evening – which included Masi’s inexplicable actions as well as race stewards’ inactions.

“Lewis and I are disillusioned at the moment. We’re not disillusioned with the sport. We love the sport with every bone in our body. And we love it because the stopwatch never lies. But if we break that fundamental principle of spotting fairness and authenticity of the sport, then suddenly the stopwatch doesn’t become relevant any more. Because we are exposed to random decision-making. And it is clear that you may fall out of love with a sport if you start to question, with all the work you have been doing, all the sweat and tears and blood.”

Although the FIA’s announced decision to launch a review of the Masi’s inexplicable actions and events of the race is an effective admission that mistakes were made, it still did not sit well with Wolff.

“The decisions that have been taken in the last four minutes of this race have robbed Lewis Hamilton of a deserved world championship. His driving in the last four races was faultless. He had a commanding lead from the get-go. He won the start and never gave the lead away again, and robbing him in the last lap of the race is unacceptable.”

As a further protest neither Wolff nor Hamilton – who was knighted by Prince Charles this week – will attend the FIA prize-giving ceremony in Paris tonight.

About Alex Bean

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