Mercedes have protested the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix final classification, citing a breach of two articles in the Sporting Regulations. It comes after a dramatic race that was won by Max Verstappen after he passed Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to take victory – and with it a first world title.
Hamilton had looked the most likely to take that all-deciding win, enjoying a comfortable lead over Verstappen having commanded the race, when Nicholas Latifi crashed with six laps to go, triggering a Safety Car.
Red Bull called Verstappen into the pits and fitted him with soft tyres. Hamilton did not pit and remained on 38-lap-old hard tyres. The race resumed with one lap to go, with Verstappen holding a significant tyre advantage. He caught and passed the Mercedes driver to take victory.
Within 30 minutes of the race ending, Mercedes launched two protests. One was “against the classification established at the end of the Competition, alleged breach of Article 48.12 of the 2021 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.”
That rule reads: “If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message ‘LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE’ has been sent to all Competitors via the official messaging system, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the Safety Car.
“This will only apply to cars that were lapped at the time they crossed the Line at the end of the lap during which they crossed the first Safety Car line for the second time after the Safety Car was deployed.
“Having overtaken the cars on the lead lap and the Safety Car these cars should then proceed around the track at an appropriate speed, without overtaking, and make every effort to take up position at the back of the line of cars behind the Safety Car.
“Whilst they are overtaking, and in order to ensure this may be carried out safely, the cars on the lead lap must always stay on the racing line unless deviating from it is unavoidable.
“Unless the clerk of the course considers the presence of the Safety Car is still necessary, once the last lapped car has passed the leader the Safety Car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap.
“If the clerk of the course considers track conditions are unsuitable for overtaking the message ‘OVERTAKING WILL NOT BE PERMITTED’ will be sent to all Competitors via the official messaging system.”
During the race, initially, race control issued a message saying lapped cars would not be allowed to overtake. At the time, five cars were between Hamilton and Verstappen.
They then said those five cars would be allowed to unlap themselves. By the time racing got underway, there was just one racing lap left – which was enough for Verstappen to catch and pass Hamilton to win.
The second protest is regarding alleged breach of Article 48.8 of the Sporting Regulations. This rule says “no driver may overtake another car on the track, including the Safety Car, until he passes the Line (see Article 5.3) for the first time after the safety car has returned to the pits.”
A spokesperson from Mercedes told the media: "As has no doubt been reported, 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."
Meanwhile, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said: “We are disappointed there has been a protest, but we trust in the FIA.”