Mercedes lodge official protest and contest Abu Dhabi GP result after late drama

Mercedes have contested the result of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after a controversial final lap saw Max Verstappen win the drivers’ championship.

Lewis Hamilton had built up a big lead with just a few laps remaining but Nicholas Latifi’s late crash prompted a safety car and Red Bull opted to take one last throw of the dice, pitting Verstappen and putting him on fresh soft tyres.

Initially, race director Michael Massi said the race would restart for one final lap without cars unlapping – which would put six cars between Verstappen and Hamilton – but suddenly opted to let five cars overtake the safety car.

Wolff was furious at the time, protesting to Massi over the radio, with Verstappen suddenly on his rival’s tail on fresh tyres, and he managed to overtake Hamilton to win his maiden title.

Mercedes were livid though and have been consulting the rules and regulations to see if the restart followed the letter of the law, with team principle Toto Wolff storming off to his office and, according to Sky Sports, refusing to shake hands with Red Bull chief Christian Horner.

They have now lodged the first of two expected protests, citing rule 48.8 which governs when cars are allowed to overtake the safety car or not. It states: ‘Any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car.’

Although some lapped cars were allowed to pass the safety car before the restart, three did not: Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher.

That would appear to contravene both rules 48.8 and 39.1.2, which stats that once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap.

There are also two instances in the build-up to the safety car leaving the track where Verstappen appears to have nudged ahead of Hamilton, which would also be against the rules.

Mercedes have a strong case to argue that the rules and protocols were not followed as they should have been, and will argue that the last lap should be discounted and Hamilton handed the win.

A brief statement from Mercedes said: ‘We lodged a formal protest within the required 30 minute time-window after the end of the race. We will not make any further comment on the detail of that until the hearing has been conducted.’

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