Max Verstappen has been confirmed as the 2021 Formula 1 World Driver’s champion after Mercedes-AMG confirmed it has withdrawn its appeal over the final laps of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Seven-time world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton had dominated the race in his Mercedes, but a late race safety car bunched the field up and allowed Red Bull-Honda’s Verstappen to pit for fresh tyres and close in – although with several lapped cars between the two.
FIA race director Michael Masi initially signalled that the race would restart with the lapped cars still in place – but then instructed the cars between Hamilton and Verstapen to unlap themselves, and then restarted the race at the end of that lap.
On fresh tyres, Verstappen overtook Hamilton to win the race and the championship. Mercedes initially appealed the result to the stewards, but that was turned down. The team then said it would appeal further.
The FIA, motorsport’s governing body, yesterday announced that it would launch “a detailed analysis and clarification exercise” on the events, which would involve broth the drivers and teams. That was decided after a presentation on the race was made to the FIA World Motor Sport Council.
In a statement, the FIA said the events in Abu Dhabi “have notably generated significant misunderstanding and reactions from Formula 1 teams, drivers and fans, an argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the championship”.
It added the clarification exercise would “be discussed and addressed with all the teams and drivers to draw any lessons from this situation and clarity to be provided to the participants, media and fans about the current regulations to preserve the competitive nature of our sport while ensuring the safety of the drivers and officials.”
Mercedes had until yesterday evening (Wednesday) to formally lodge its appeal over the stewards’ ruling and hadn’t made any public comment since then. But it has now decided not to appeal.
In a statement, the team said: “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.