ABU DHABI, Dec 16 (AP): Mercedes withdrew its appeal Thursday of the Formula One season finale in which Lewis Hamilton lost the championship to Max Verstappen.
Mercedes had filed two protests following Sunday’s race, but both were dismissed. Mercedes then asked for reconsideration at the International Court of Appeal, a process that could have dragged into next year.
Mercedes was protesting the use of the safety car following a crash with five laps remaining in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Hamilton had a nearly 12-second lead with Verstappen in second when the crash brought out the yellow flag.
Verstappen pitted for fresh tires while Hamilton stayed on track. The race resumed with one lap remaining. Verstappen then passed Hamilton to win his first world championship, denying Hamilton a record eighth title.
Mercedes said Thursday, ahead of the season-ending gala in Paris later in the evening, that it decided with Hamilton not to move forward with the appeal.
“We left Abu Dhabi in disbelief of what we had just witnessed. Of course, it’s part of the game to lose a race, but it’s something different when you lose faith in racing,” Mercedes said in a statement, adding it protested because rules “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 championship).”
The appeal was made “in the interest of sporting fairness,” Mercedes said.
Discussions with both the FIA and Formula One asking for clarity on the rules “so that all competitors know the rules under which they are racing, and how they will be enforced” satisfied Mercedes, the team said.
The FIA late Wednesday said it will conduct an analysis of the ending and acknowledged the controversy is “tarnishing the image of the championship.” The FIA delivered a report on the incident to the World Motor Sport Council in Paris and said a further review will help understand why the race ended as it did.
“We welcome the decision by the FIA to install a commission to thoroughly analyze what happened in Abu Dhabi and to improve the robustness of rules, governance and decision making in Formula 1. We also welcome that they have invited the teams and drivers to take part,” Mercedes said.
Mercedes also congratulated Verstappen and Red Bull, and called the 24-year-old Dutchman a “flawless sportsman on and off the track” who “delivered a faultless performance.”
“We would like to express our sincere respect for your achievements this season,” Mercedes said in its statement. “You made this Formula 1 championship title fight truly epic. Max, we congratulate you and your entire team. We look forward to taking the fight to you on the track next season.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner on Wednesday called for the controversy to end. He also said a number of variables out of Red Bull’s control came into play that decided the race, beginning with Nicholas Latifi’s crash with five laps remaining.
“We didn’t ask Nicholas Latifi to crash, that happens, and that’s the risk that you take,” Horner said. “And we found it surprising that Mercedes strategically, you know, they left Lewis out on a set of tires that had to have been close to 40 laps on them. So of course, if the race were to restart, he was going to be vulnerable.
“Strategically, that was a mistake. I think we made the right strategy call, and as the following car on a track that isn’t easy to overtake, Max still had to make that pass. And he did it,” Horner said. “A safety car caused by Williams gave us an opportunity to throw something strategically at those last five laps and it paid off.”