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Max Verstappen confirmed world champion as F1 race stewards reject Mercedes' appeals

Mercedes lodged two appeals, protesting safety car procedure ahead of the final lap, on which Verstappen dramatically passed Lewis Hamilton to win the title.

Max Verstappen.
Max Verstappen.
Image: PA

Updated Dec 12th 2021, 7:37 PM

MAX VERSTAPPEN HAS been confirmed as the 2021 Formula One world champion, with race stewards rejecting two appeals by Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team against the Dutchman’s victory in today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

“The FIA Stewards have dismissed Mercedes’ protests against the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix final classification,” Formula 1 said on its official Twitter feed.

Mercedes announced their intention to lodge one final appeal against the result.

They lodged two protests in the aftermath of a dramatic finale on the track, contesting the safety car procedure which resulted in Verstappen overtaking Hamilton on a frantic final lap to clinch the world championship.

“Mercedes have protested ‘against the classification established at the end of the Competition’, relating to alleged breaches of Articles 48.8 and 48.12 of the FIA Sporting Regulations,” said Formula One. 

Hamilton had been coasting to victory, his eighth world title seemingly in the bag.

Four laps from the end, however, Nicholas Latifi crashed his Williams, bringing out the safety car and prompting Verstappen to pit for fresh tyres.

When racing resumed for the 58th and closing lap Verstappen barged past Hamilton to take the chequered flag and his first-ever world title.

Both Mercedes appeals were dismissed after the two teams spent hours in the stewards’ office,.

Asked if he understood the decision taken by Mercedes – who had a barrister present at the hearing – to launch their initial appeals, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner replied: “It obviously felt a little bit desperate but we didn’t want it to finish in front of the stewards.

“We never wanted to end up in front of the stewards, there was obviously a lot of debate before the race.

“As it turns out it was obviously very different after the race, we don’t go racing with barristers and so on – it was a shame it ended up there but the stewards made the right call.

“We have talked about ‘let them race’, Niki Lauda was the guy who pushed hard for it and we’ve always talked about not finishing racing under safety cars, the race director in difficult circumstances made absolutely the right call and strategically we got it right.

“If they appeal, they appeal. We’ll fight them in the appeal court and then in the legal court after that if they were to go that route.”

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Williams’ George Russell – who will drive with Hamilton at Mercedes next year – said the ending was “unacceptable.”

“Max is an absolutely fantastic driver who has had an incredible season and I have nothing but huge respect for him, but what just happened is absolutely unacceptable. I cannot believe what we’ve just seen”, tweeted Russell. 

Emphasising his point, Russell added in another tweet: “THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!!”

“It’s insane”, reflected Verstappen. “My goal when I was little was to be a Formula One driver. You dream of podiums and victories. But when they tell you that you are world champion, it’s incredible.”

Hamilton was magnanimous in defeat, embracing his nemesis and saying: “Congratulations to Max and his team”.

“We gave it everything this last part of the season and never gave up, that’s the most important thing.” 

 First published at 16.03, updated at 19.29 with rejection of appeals 

© – AFP, 2021, with reporting by PA and Gavin Cooney 

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