Mercedes F1 team withdraws appeal against Max Verstappen’s title-deciding win

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team has made its call on whether to appeal the controversial finish to the world championship, while Toto Wolff’s wife has unloaded in damning Twitter post.

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team on Thursday announced they were withdrawing their appeal against Max Verstappen’s controversial title-winning victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The team said they had made the decision following “constructive dialogue” with governing body FIA with regard to establishing clarity for future racing scenarios.

“We welcome the decision by the FIA to install a commission to thoroughly analyse what happened in Abu Dhabi and to improve the robustness of rules, governance and decision-making in Formula 1,” Mercedes said in a statement.

“We also welcome that they have invited the teams and drivers to take part.

“The Mercedes-AMG Petronas team will actively work with this commission to build a better Formula 1 — for every team and every fan who loves this sport as much as we do. We will hold the FIA accountable for this process and we hereby withdraw our appeal.”

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen after the controversial finish to the final race of the F1 season in Abu Dhabi.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen after the controversial finish to the final race of the F1 season in Abu Dhabi.

But despite Mercedes’ decision, Susie Wolff, the wife of team principal Toto, has vented her anger on Twitter, slamming the controversial finish to the championship.

“What has happened is still hard to comprehend and leaves me with a sick feeling,” she said on Twitter.

“Not the losing — and not Max or Red Bull — they are deserving winners and we always knew it was a strong possibility we may not win — but the way in which Lewis was robbed has left me in utter disbelief.”

Red Bull’s Verstappen claimed victory and the world title after the deployment of a late safety car in Sunday’s season-ending race in Abu Dhabi led to the Dutchman being placed right behind Hamilton, whom he then overtook on the final lap when the safety car was withdrawn.

Mercedes had an immediate double appeal dismissed by the stewards, then lodged an intention to appeal against that decision, which they were required to trigger by Thursday evening.

Revealed: What Mercedes texted Red Bull after F1 farce

— Emily Benammar, The Times

Red Bull will find out Friday morning if Mercedes are to push ahead with their appeal against the dismissal of their protests over the way the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was settled on Sunday after the intervention of, and subsequent confusion over, the safety car.

Ultimately the team is fighting for Lewis Hamilton to be crowned champion, not his Dutch rival.

The cut-off for the new appeal to be lodged is 7pm UK time Thursday (6am Friday AEDT) and Mercedes appear to be using all of that time, but Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, revealed that not only had Toto Wolff, his counterpart and fierce rival at Mercedes, texted him to wish him congratulations but that he had also received a message from the chairman of the board of management at Daimler, Mercedes’ parent company.

“Toto sent Max a text [of congratulations] on Sunday evening,” Horner said.

Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner celebrates with winning driver Max Verstappen on the podium. Picture: Getty Images
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner celebrates with winning driver Max Verstappen on the podium. Picture: Getty Images

“I went to see him and he wasn’t available. Ola Kallenius [the Daimler board chairman] congratulated me on the championship. He said they would fight hard next year. And Toto texted me as well on Sunday evening,” Horner added before reading out the message.

“[The message] was perfectly cordial. I don’t know whether he was feeling fine at the time. But it said, ‘Sorry I couldn’t be there to receive you when you came to see us. Congratulations on the drivers’ championship with Max. He’s a worthy champion and a fierce competitor. Enjoy your evening. You’ve earned it.’

“I said to him by text, ‘Thank you very much, Toto. I know it’s been an intense season but respect has always been there. Congratulations on your constructors’ championship. Remember, that’s where the money is.’ ”

Mercedes clinched their eighth constructors’ championship, and therefore the biggest share of the season’s prize money, which is then passed on to the team’s employees as a bonus.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff texted Christian Horner to congratulate him on Red Bull’s win. Picture: Getty Images
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff texted Christian Horner to congratulate him on Red Bull’s win. Picture: Getty Images

Earlier, F1 bosses admitted the controversy surrounding Max Verstappen’s title-winning victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix risks “tarnishing the image of the sport”.

The race — won by Max Verstappen — has been described by many as “one of the most controversial in the sport’s history” owing to rule breaches, interpretations and pressure from team bosses on race director Micheal Masi.

As a result of the global outcry, FIA president Jean Todt has had his proposal for a full review of the race accepted by the World Motor Sport Council in order to provide “detailed analysis and clarification for the future with all relevant parties”.

Lewis Hamilton looked set to claim his eighth world title before a crash involving the Williams of Nicholas Latifi turned everything on its head.

In the final laps, confusion reigned as Masi initially prevented lapped cars from passing the safety car before changing his mind — meaning Verstappen had a clear track to make a charge for Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton drives behind the safety car during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix. Picture: AFP
Lewis Hamilton drives behind the safety car during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix. Picture: AFP

The Red Bull racer — on fresh tyres — took the lead on the final lap to win the driver’s title.

Where there should have been jubilance and celebration there was fury and accusation.

Mercedes lodged two protests, the first claiming Verstappen took a lead under safety car conditions and the second relating to Masi’s indecision and confusion over which lapped cars could pass the SC.

Both were rejected and Mercedes has been weighing up an appeal.

The finale to an enthralling season was completely overshadowed by controversy, debate and the suggestion Hamilton was “robbed”.

Lewis Hamilton looks dejected after falling short during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Picture: Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton looks dejected after falling short during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Picture: Getty Images

Today, the FIA took some steps towards clarifying their view but offered no support for Australian-born Masi.

Their statement said: “The circumstances surrounding the use of the Safety Car following the incident of driver Nicholas Latifi, and the related communications between the FIA race direction team and the Formula 1 teams, have notably generated significant misunderstanding and reactions from Formula 1 teams, drivers and fans, an argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the championship and the due celebration of the first drivers’ world championship title won by Max Verstappen and the eighth consecutive constructors’ world championship title won by Mercedes.”

The statement added: “This matter will be discussed and addressed with all the teams and drivers to draw any lessons from this situation and clarity to be provided to the participants, media, and fans about the current regulations to preserve the competitive nature of our sport while ensuring the safety of the drivers and officials.

“It is not only Formula 1 that may benefit from this analysis, but also more generally all the other FIA circuit championships.”

Max Verstappen’s win over Lewis Hamilton has been shrouded in controversy. Picture: AFP
Max Verstappen’s win over Lewis Hamilton has been shrouded in controversy. Picture: AFP

While debate will always rage over the 2021 title result, the manner in which the race played out has already prompted talk of rule changes.

Throughout the 55 laps, Masi was bombarded by team bosses over the radio leading Damon Hill and other experts to suggest he was lobbeyed.

As such, F1 managing director Ross Brawn, has announced that in 2022, communications between race director and teams will cease.

“We will stop this contact next year,’ Brawn said.

“It’s unacceptable that team bosses put Michael under such pressure during the race. It’s like the coaches negotiating with the referee in football.

“Toto can’t demand there shouldn’t be a Safety Car and Christian can’t demand the cars have to un-lap. That’s at the discretion of the race director.”

Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium of the Yas Marina Circuit after the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix. Picture: AFP
Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium of the Yas Marina Circuit after the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix. Picture: AFP

After Verstappen had made his move on Hamilton on turn four of the final lap, Wolff was heard yelling “No, Mikey, no, no, Mikey, that was so not right.”

As the safety car took to the track, Horner was then heard saying: “Why aren’t we getting these lapped cars out of the way?”

To which Masi responded: “Give me a second. My main thing is to get this incident clear.”

Brawn is not alone in his desire to make the change. Former world champion and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has called for action.

“Here Christan coming on the radio to the referee saying ‘we need one more lap of racing’ that’s not ideal. We need to get rid of that for next year,” he said after the race.

“Maybe they shouldn’t even be speaking to the referee at all. It doesn’t happen in football. You can’t have the manager calling the referee.

“There needs to be a proper framework where we keep things understood,” Rosberg said.

Damon Hill went a step further and suggested Horner had too much influence on the outcome.

“We have to factor in the communications that have been broadcast between the teams and the race director Michael Masi,” Hill told Sky Sports.

“It makes it sound like he has been pressured by Red Bull to do stuff. It’s been an important element this season, and may even have influenced the outcome of the world championship.”

Originally published as Mercedes F1 team withdraws appeal against Max Verstappen’s title-deciding win