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Abu Dhabi GP: Mercedes lodge protest with FIA over controversial F1 title decider

Max Verstappen

Bengaluru, December 12: Formula One (F1) team Mercedes have launched an official protest after Max Verstappen controversially beat Lewis Hamilton to the FIA World Championship title on the final lap of the season.

Hamilton had reeled in Verstappen in the closing weeks of the campaign and led his rival for much of Sunday's (December 12) Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Having entered the race all square at the top of the standings, the victor of a battle between Hamilton and Verstappen would decide the 2021 FIA F1 World Championship.

Max Verstappen edges Lewis Hamilton in last-lap thriller to be crowned new F1 championMax Verstappen edges Lewis Hamilton in last-lap thriller to be crowned new F1 champion

Hamilton's advantage was wiped out by a safety car, under which Verstappen pitted to get fresh tyres for a potential shot at passing the Mercedes man.

He got that chance when FIA Race Director Michael Masi belatedly ruled lapped cars could overtake the safety car, which headed in and allowed one lap of racing between the contenders.

Verstappen beat Hamilton as Mercedes fumed, with Masi explaining to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff: "We went car racing."

As Red Bull celebrated their sensational victory, Mercedes protested "against the classification established at the end of the competition".

The protest focuses on articles 48.8 and 48.12 in the sporting regulations of governing body the FIA, each of which relate to the safety car.

Article 48.8 instructs that cars cannot overtake behind a safety car, with footage suggesting Verstappen may have briefly edged in front of Hamilton, who had position as the lead car.

Article 48.12 relates to when lapped cars can overtake under the safety car.

'Mad Max' evolves into Formula One world champion'Mad Max' evolves into Formula One world champion

In only the second championship chase to see the top two enter the final race of the season all square on points, Verstappen had to match Hamilton but struggled to do so for much of Sunday's remarkable race.

Red Bull were initially furious following an early flashpoint that had Hamilton ahead, yet Mercedes were outraged by the chequered flag as Verstappen, on fresh tyres, was allowed a single lap after a safety car to take the title.

The protest was lodged within the required 30-minute time window after the race.

Mercedes added that it "will not make any further comment on the detail of that until the hearing has been conducted".

(With inputs from Agencies)

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Story first published: Sunday, December 12, 2021, 22:27 [IST]
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