Mercedes F1 team withdraws appeal against Verstappen title

Withdrawal confirms Max Verstappen of Red Bull as Formula One world champion after controversial win in the final race of the season.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates with Red Bull team chief Christian Horner, right, and his team in the pit lane after becoming F1 world champion [Kamran Jebreili/AP Photo]

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team has dropped plans to appeal the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix outcome and congratulated Max Verstappen as Formula One world champion.

Red Bull’s Verstappen, 24, seized the title after overtaking seven-time world champion Hamilton on the last lap of the race amid uproar over how a late safety car period was conducted.

The Dutch driver is due to collect his trophy at a gala awards ceremony in Paris on Thursday evening.

Mercedes welcomed the governing FIA’s decision, announced on Wednesday, to analyse what happened at Yas Marina and bring clarity for the future.

“We will hold the FIA accountable for this process and we hereby withdraw our appeal,” the team said.

Mercedes had announced their intention to appeal after two post-race protests were dismissed. The deadline was Thursday evening.

“We left Abu Dhabi in disbelief of what we had just witnessed. Of course, it’s part of the game to lose a race, but it’s something different when you lose faith in racing,” Mercedes said.

“Together with Lewis, we have deliberated carefully over how to respond to the events … we have always been guided by our love of this sport and we believe that every competition should be won on merit.

“In the race on Sunday many felt, us included, that the way things unfolded was not right.”

The safety car was deployed five laps from the end after Canadian Nicholas Latifi crashed his Williams, with marshals needing to be on track to recover it.

Racing resumed with one lap remaining after race director Michael Masi broke with a protocol requiring all lapped cars should overtake the safety car first.

Instead, only those between Verstappen and Hamilton unlapped themselves, giving the Red Bull driver a clear track to close on Hamilton and overtake.

Hamilton had not pitted, unlike Verstappen, when the safety car was deployed because he would have lost the lead and Mercedes calculated there was not enough time remaining to resume racing under the rules.

Hamilton had a nearly 12-second lead with Verstappen in second when the crash brought out the yellow flag.

“We appealed in the interest of sporting fairness,” said Mercedes.

“We have since been in a constructive dialogue with the FIA and Formula One to create clarity for the future, so that all competitors know the rules under which they are racing, and how they will be enforced.

Mercedes also congratulated Verstappen and Red Bull, and called the 24-year-old Dutchman a “flawless sportsman on and off the track” who “delivered a faultless performance”.

“We would like to express our sincere respect for your achievements this season,” Mercedes said in its statement. “You made this Formula 1 championship title fight truly epic. Max, we congratulate you and your entire team. We look forward to taking the fight to you on the track next season.”

Source: News Agencies