Mercedes’ protest against Max Verstappen potentially overtaking under the safety car late in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been dismissed.
Verstappen pulled alongside Lewis Hamilton as the race leader backed up the field ahead of a restart with one lap remaining at the Yas Marina Circuit, with the Red Bull moving marginally ahead at one stage. Verstappen went on to overtake Hamilton on the final lap to become world champion, but Mercedes lodged two protests of the result.
The first related to Verstappen’s movements behind the safety car, and the stewards deemed the protest admissible but dismissed it.
“Red Bull argued that Car 44 was not ‘overtaken’ by Car 33, that both cars were “on and off the throttle” and that there were ‘a million precedents’ under Safety Car where cars had pulled alongside then moved back behind the Car that was in front,” the stewards decision read.
“The Stewards consider that the protest is admissible. Having considered the various statements made by the parties. The Stewards determine that although Car 33 did at one stage, for a very short period of time, move slightly in front of Car 44, at a time when both cars where accelerating and braking, it moved back behind Car 44 and it was not in front when the Safety Car period ended (i.e. at the line).
“Accordingly, the Protest is dismissed and the Protest Deposit is not refunded.”
The second protest against the way the race was restarted — with not all cars being allowed to unlap themselves as per the regulations, and the race restarting a lap earlier than usual in such a scenario — is still to be decided on after two further meetings. However, Red Bull is unhappy at Mercedes’ use of legal representation.
“We are a race team, we did not come here with a QC (Queen’s Counsel, a UK legal term for lawyer), we did not come ready to protest,” a Red Bull spokesperson said.