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Formula 1: Does a Mercedes appointment have a chance?

It was a completely crazy final at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix! Although Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) looked like the sure winner for a long time, Max Verstappen (Red Bull) triumphed. Because an accident with five laps before the end of the race ruined the whole race. Two Mercedes protests have since been thrown out. The team has announced that it will appeal against this.

ABMS explains: Was Verstappen right to become world champion? And who was to blame for the chaos?

Why did the safety car phase come about?
Actually, he did everything right: Lewis Hamilton dominated the GP Abu Dhabi at will and raced towards his eighth world title. But then the racing god struck. Five laps before the end, Williams driver Nicholas Latifi crashed into the gang after a duel with Mick Schumacher in the corners and thus triggered a safety car phase.

Nicholas Latifi caused the safety car phase

Why did Red Bull react better than Mercedes?
Red Bull pitted Verstappen, who was almost eleven seconds behind Hamilton at the time, during the virtual safety car phase. The Dutchman got soft tires so that in the case of a “real” safety car he would have the chance to attack Hamilton on its old, hard rubber. Red Bull took a risk, which paid off when the safety car actually hit the track.

Why didn’t Mercedes counter with a tire change?
If the leader is the first to make a pit stop, he runs the risk of losing his position on the track to his opponent if he does fall by the wayside. Since it was unclear whether the race would have to end under yellow, the risk of a timely tire change was too great. But Hamilton immediately knew what was in store for him and radioed angrily: “Sch …!”

Where did the chaos with the lapped cars come from?
Between Hamilton and Verstappen there were five other vehicles that had been lapped. Usually they are allowed to round back at the end of a safety car phase. But that only works when the scene of the accident is cleared and safe again. The problem: Race director Michael Masi was running out of time. Before the race, all protagonists had agreed that the World Cup final should not end behind the safety car. Masi’s solution one: leave the order as it is with the lapped drivers. That would have secured Hamilton the title. But Red Bull rightly warned that the lapped cars may lap back according to Article 48 of the sporting regulations. Masi asked for time to think about it and then gave the appropriate instructions. However, because he had officially heralded the end of the safety car phase beforehand, he was again short of time and decided to only wave the five disturbing drivers between Hamilton and Verstappen past the safety car. One thing is certain: Masi was trapped in time. With all these conditions and the requirement to finish the race with a green flag, he had no choice.

Mercedes believes the safety car protocol was not properly followed.

What is Mercedes protesting against?
Mercedes claims: No. The reason is Article 48.12. It says: “If the race director considers this to be safe and the message” LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE “has been sent to all participants via the official message system, vehicles lapped by the leader are required to overtake those vehicles in the lead lap and the safety car. ”

How do the stewards judge?
According to the racing referees Garry Connelly, Derek Warwick, Felix Holter and Mohamed Al Hashmi, Article 48.13, which regulates that the safety car has to turn into the pits on every lap, in which the signal was given, overrides Article 48.13. In addition, Article 15.3 comes into play, an empowering paragraph that gives the race director full control over the “use of the safety car”. It is therefore not appropriate to accept the result of the penultimate lap and shorten the race in this way. A second protest, according to which Verstappen should have illegally overtaken Hamilton behind the safety car, was also thrown out and should be irrelevant for the further course of the cause. Reason: An overtaking maneuver did not take place and therefore cannot be proven.

Who was to blame for the chaos?
In the end, the black Peter race director Michael Masi has to be pushed. The Australian created confusion with his back and forth. However, according to the rules, he has the right to override individual paragraphs. He used this authority on Sunday in Abu Dhabi. This makes his role comparable to that of a referee in football. If he gives an unjustified penalty, it may be a mistake. The goal counts anyway. Formula 1 sports director Ross Brawn has already announced the consequences: In the future, the teams should no longer be able to put pressure on the race director with constant radio contact. The Brit: “It cannot be acceptable that the team bosses put Michael under such pressure during the race. Toto Wolff cannot demand that a safety car should not come, and Christian Horner cannot demand that the cars have to lap back. That is at the discretion of the race director. We will stop this contact in the next year. ”

How is it going on now?
Mercedes has announced that it will appeal. The team has 96 hours for this, so until Thursday. If Mercedes takes this step, the case will come before the FIA’s International Court of Appeal, before the appeals court. There at least three independent judges decide on the case. Scheduling an appointment usually takes weeks. The problem: This Friday is the FIA ​​gala, where the world champion is to be crowned.

Does a calling have a chance of success?
Barely. The Formula 1 rules are so complex that there is room for various interpretations. The full authority of the race director precludes judges from being able to agree with Mercedes, even if you get tangled up in the jumble of paragraphs and in some cases agree with the Hamilton team. In addition: FIA and the Formula 1 marketers from Liberty Media will not allow there to be a new world champion at the green table and rely on factual decisions.

Are there any precedents?
No. Even when Ayrton Senna’s title was taken away in 1989 after his accident with Alain Prost and an allegedly irregular return to the track, a protest had no prospect of success.

Does Mercedes believe in success itself?
Not clear. Mercedes feels cheated out of the world title. From the team’s point of view, a first protest after the race was understandable. But team boss Toto Wolff also knows that going to court could damage the entire sport and also the image of Mercedes as a fair loser.

For its part, Red Bull has threatened to leave. How realistic is such a scenario?
If Verstappen’s title should be revoked, group leader Dietrich Mateschitz will not hesitate and withdraw both Red Bull and AlphaTauri from Formula 1. But it is unlikely that this scenario will occur. Rather, Red Bull wants to ensure that the decisions of the race director and the race stewards become more constant and more comprehensible. This mainly relates to overtaking maneuvers. Reason: The Austrians have the impression that Verstappen was punished more often and more severely than Hamilton in 2021.

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