Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2021

Why Mercedes believe they would have won an appeal but still lost the title

2021 F1 season

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff did not hold back on the debacle which saw Lewis Hamilton lose the world drivers’ championship in excruciating circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“The decisions that have been taken in the last four minutes of this race have robbed Lewis Hamilton of a deserved world championship,” seethed Wolff yesterday. “Robbing him in the last lap of the race is unacceptable.”

Yet, despite Wolff and Mercedes’s palpable disgust at the injustice they believe their driver was dealt at the hands of race control on Sunday in the handling of the final safety car restart, the team decided against exercising their right under the sporting regulations to appeal the result of the race in the FIA’s International Court of Appeal (ICA).

Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021
Mercedes had a “very strong case” – Wolff
Why were Mercedes unwilling to pursue a clear course of action to achieve sporting justice? Particularly as choosing not to dispute the events of the final five laps of last weekend’s race confirmed Hamilton’s year-long rival, Max Verstappen, as world champion.

The possibility of losing appears not to have been a concern. Wolff was adamant that, if the matter went to a civil court case and not simply a sporting one, the law would be on their side.

“We believe we had a very strong case,” Wolff explained. “If you look at it from the legal side, if it would have been judged in a regular court, it is almost guaranteed that we would have won.”

So what factors may have influenced the team’s decision to drop plans to take the matter to the ICA?

FIA’s appeal system offered no route to justice

Maybe the most telling reason behind Mercedes’ hesitancy to take the matter further can be seen in Wolff’s doubts over the FIA’s appeal structure itself.

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina, 2021
Mercedes saw no chance of getting Hamilton’s win back
Unlike the vast majority of disputes commonly brought to the ICA – against penalties imposed by stewards for technical or sporting reasons – Mercedes were not seeking to contest the actions of a rival, but an FIA representative. Wolff made it clear he doubted whether the court would rule against the actions of the race director.

“The problem with the ICA is the way it’s structured,” explained Wolff. “The FIA can’t really mark their own homework. There’s a difference between being right and obtaining justice.”

Moreover, even if Mercedes won, Wolff wasn’t convinced they would gain restitution for the lost championship through the court.

“I don’t think that, at the moment, we are set up in terms of our governance to end up in a situation that would have given us a remedy that would have reinstalled the result that was taken away from Lewis before the last lap of the race,” said Wolff. “And that’s why, heavy hearted, we have decided not to appeal because we wouldn’t have gotten the result back.”

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Hamilton’s view

Of all the members of the Mercedes team, none had as much of a right to feel aggrieved by what took place last Sunday as Lewis Hamilton. Having been passed by Verstappen on the final lap with his fresh soft tyres after leading him throughout the entire race, Hamilton saw his hopes of an unprecedented eighth world title crumble over those final five kilometres.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2021
Hamilton backed Mercedes’ decision to back down, said Wolff
Having sportingly congratulated his rival and attended the podium presentation, Hamilton promptly left the circuit and, at time of writing, has made no public statement on the race beyond on a few gracious words in parc ferme after the chequered flag.

Wolff says that throughout Mercedes’s response to the finish of the race, they have acted with their driver’s consent and cooperation.

“Every step of the way it was joint decisions,” Wolff said. “We decided together with Lewis to protest, to launch the appeal and to withdraw the appeal. As you can imagine, not only for him but also for us as a team, it was terrible to be confronted with a decision that decided the outcome of the world championship.”

As one of the most successful and celebrated racers in the history of Formula 1, Wolff knows Hamilton would prefer for the title to be won on the track.

“Nobody of us, neither him or us, want to win a world championship in the courtroom,” Wolff says. “But, on the other side, we were deeply wronged on Sunday, and it wasn’t just a case of a bad call, it was freestyle reading of the rules and it left Lewis like a sitting duck.”

Wolff said Hamilton’s strong sense of values and beliefs – both in racing and in wider societal issues – makes the decision not to challenge the result especially difficult to accept.

“It was tremendously hard for him and for us as a team to withdraw the appeal because we were wronged,” continued Wolff.

“We deeply believe that in Formula 1 – the pinnacle of motor racing, one of the most important sports in the world – justice is being done. So my soul and my heart cries with every bone that this should have been judged in the right way. A legal situation would have given us [as being] right. But there’s a difference between being right and obtaining justice.”

After a career in F1 spanning over 15 years where Hamilton has not spent a day free of scrutiny from media and fans alike, there is perhaps no one more acutely aware of the intense spotlight an appeal would place him and his team under. Until he publicly shares his thoughts on the contentious end to this year’s championship, this seems to have been just as much a driver decision as it was a team one.

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Placating the team’s partners?

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2021
The team’s sponsors were “with us all the way” over appeal
It was not simply Mercedes and Hamilton who missed out on the world championship in large part due to the irregular actions of race control, but Mercedes’ shareholders, partners and sponsors too.

Having the ability to proudly display your logo on the overalls of the world champion is a major draw for marketing departments the world over. And for Mercedes, the expected additional financial boost from satisfying championship clauses would not be at all unwelcome.

Wolff indicated the teams’ backers had no qualms about the case going legal. “I’m so proud of the support that our sponsors and partners have given us over the last few days,” he said. “They’ve been with us all the way along.

“The message that I have received personally from sponsors, from fans, from very credible people made me very happy.”

Perhaps recognising the complexity of the situation the team has faced, it seems that Mercedes’ partners are sympathetic to their plight and backed the team’s choice.

“The sponsors have trusted us to come up with a decision in relation to the appeal and would have gone with us all the way,” Wolff insisted.

Time for change?

As egregious as the events at the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix may have been, it was far from the only controversial impact of race control or the stewards had on the outcome of the season. But it may well prove to be the one that prompts actual change.

New president Sulayem will oversee FIA’s response
In walking away from an appeal, Mercedes welcomed a proposal by outgoing FIA president, Jean Todt, to hold a “detailed analysis and clarification exercise” into the incident. The team vowed to “hold the FIA accountable for this process.”

“There is a lesson to be learned,” said Wolff. “How can we make sure that, going forward, in situations like that the right decisions are being taken, the verdict from the stewards corresponds to the regulations and judgement in the courts – whether it is the ICA or the CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport], which is not currently part of the legislations – can be judged in a way that is fair and neutral to every participant.”

With a newly-elected FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, promising structural change within the organisation, Todt’s promises must now be delivered by his successor.

“Now I think we have the right tools in hand to make sure that the decision-making going forward is better,” said Wolff. “We will be holding the FIA and the decision makers accountable for making the sport more robust and the decision-making more robust and more consistent.”

It’s possible that the consequence of Mercedes not bringing their appeal to the ICA could be real and substantial change in stewarding or race direction in the sport heading to next season. That would be a welcome outcome after a contentious end to the 2021 campaign which even the FIA admitted ultimately “tarnished” the world championship.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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126 comments on “Why Mercedes believe they would have won an appeal but still lost the title”

  1. Don’t all professional sports have a similar legal structure that makes it very difficult to call the officiating into question? Isn’t that why it is extremely difficult to pursue cases of actual corruption?

    1. @x1znet Yes they all do to an extent. I think that’s part of the reason the Court of Arbitration for Sport was set up, so that governing body commisions weren’t ruling on governing body actions. However, as it stands, the FIA is not party to CAS (except for doping, as they are a member of WADA, which does fall under CAS’ jurisdiction), as the CAS Constitution makes it clear that they only have jurisdiction if it’s explicitly mentioned in a sport’s charter.

      I hope the FIA do sign up to CAS in response to this. As much as I’d hate another level of proceedings for a protest or appeal to go through, if it stops the governing body presiding over a case they’re involved in (as claiments or defence) then I believe thay would be a positive outcome.

      1. As both a lawyer and a motorsport fan, I would hesitate to refer anything to the CAS until they reform their own procedures and institute much needed transparency. Play the Game has a great report on the composition and operation of the CAS and it is far from being a beacon of transparency and justice.

    2. Again, mercedes feel injustice because many cars didn’t get to unlap? Does mercedes actually realise that they want to win the title because race direction failed to fill out all the beaurocracy? The call was not unjust, it was almost unjust as Toto almost made race direction make the wrong call.

      1. Mercedes didn’t pit because finishing under safety car was by far the most likely outcome with not enough laps left to clear the track, let lapped cars through & for the safety car to complete another lap – y’know, like they do every other time, in line with the rulebook.
        Masi searched high and low for a solution to ‘Let Them Race ™’ and came up with leaving the lapped cars in the queue. RBR got on the blower to explain that as the rights holder to ‘Let Them Race ™’, as usual, they’d decide what it meant.
        Just comes in here: Masi just expedited the invented mechanism as directed.

    3. Isn’t that why it is extremely difficult to pursue cases of actual corruption?

      Any case of corruption can be taken to a normal court (as a criminal offence).
      But private matters (how to interpret the rules, who should have won, etc) are best covered within the sport itself. It’s only sports after all. The rules themselves are already somewhat advantageous to one party versus another in most sports.

      PS there is one other way for Mercedes to take this to court. They have a commercial contract with Liberty and the could try to claim breach of contract there. But even though I do not have that contract, I do not see an opening there; they did not even miss out on commercial payments AFAIK. And for sure there is a condition in there that the FIA decisions and rankings are final.

    4. Let’s consider statutes of limitations for civil court, global court shopping, etc.

      The last lap at Abu Dhabi wouldn’t be the only trial. No reason there couldn’t be dozens for this season that could impact the championship, including ones brought by back markers. Maybe some prior year championships could be overturned at civil trial. Wouldn’t surprise me if a venue exists with no statute of limitation and Fangio’s descendants could be sucked in. What if Merc filed an Abu Dhabi last lap case in one country and Ferrari in another and there were conflicting rulings?

      Let’s see how stupid we can be as a sport or as a business.

  2. Well that pushes me a step down on the pessimism front. I’m still not expecting anything to improve, but I have a smidge more hope.

    If we had something more positive from the FIA and it’s representatives, something which didn’t sound like they were closing ranks (which it all has so far too me), I could see myself ending up optimistic.

    1. The discussion in this article and if this is what Toto and MB are saying, i can totally understand.

      I came to the same conclusions that they may win an appeal but the remedy would not give the desired outcome.

      I also imagine that Lewis would have felt awkward if somehow the decision could be reversed and he was awarded the win and the championship, that is a great credit to him. But I bet you whilst his detractors will harp on about Mercedes, supposedly poor, strategy and Silverstone few of them will acknowledge how he has conducted himself over this matter.

      It is similar to when Luis Suarez denied a certain goal that would have given Ghana a place in the world cup semi finals. However what Masi did was far far worse as Suarez was punished by a red card and it was accepted that what he did was wrong. But after Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty that was it, there was no more time in the game and eventually Uruguay went through.

      Sorry I got distracted there. The issue with this scandal is what Masi did is irreversible and far reaching, in fact it’s impact will last forever !

      I am also still of the opinion at court or an appeal Mercedes could have sought to have the last lap, 58, annulled on the basis that it was not under proper racing conditions, maybe call it a Winnie Harlow factor:)

      I don’t want to be too critical or appear as if I dislike him but surely this is another layer to Max Verstappen not having any issue of winning all costs. But on the other hand, I would never expect him or anyone to pull up park there car under such a situation so I guess he was left with very few choices.

      I also need to go back to how a few seasons ago we discussed Masi on this forum and the consensus then was he wasn’t a good RD. Since then I was thinking maybe we had been too harsh, however it seems we were right. He is not consistent and makes awful decisions; I am thinking about black and white flags to Leclerc, deploying safety cars and red flags at the wrong time.

      1. I can definitely be impressed about the reaction hamilton had to this issue and still point out there’s been cases like silverstone, baku or hungary where verstappen lost more points through bad luck (or in silverstone arguably taking too much risk, but he wasn’t deemed at fault) than hamilton this last race, the 2 are not mutually exclusive.

        1. one of the few reasonable and calm comments in this direction.

        2. Yep. I do think Max and Hamilton has similar numbers of both lenient and harsh decisions, but it’s likely Max was unluckier in terms of points lost. That doesn’t mean you can’t have different opinions on the Masi incident, or how something else has behaved. It isn’t all or nothing.

      2. Yes, detractors will harp on as way of pulling at any straws they can find. Pulling at fragile, feeble straws when the most egregious decision by an FIA sporting official in history hit everybody like a tonne of bricks.

      3. @You Go Chavez

        I don’t want to be too critical or appear as if I dislike him but surely this is another layer to Max Verstappen not having any issue of winning all costs.

        Do keep in mind that the first instance of unfair officiating of the season went against Max, when Hamilton was allowed to drive outside the track for half the race, with it immediately being disallowed when Max started doing the same.

        The consequence of poor officiating like this is that’s it’s easy for drivers to feel hard done by and to feel that they have to make up for the unfairness by doing things that might be considered unfair if the refereeing was just.

        1. That was I thought at the time. If the decision was to finish the race under safety car conditions we would all be citing the L1 incident to be judged unfairly, and it would have been Horner up in arms for a double fault from the stewards. Perhaps even pointing out it was a Mercedes car that bought out the SC, though that would be a stretch given how far in the lead Hamilton was.

          Going forward I would favour an call for all lapped cars to move behind those on the lead lap if less than an agreed percentage of the race remains eg 10%. Also to move the timing line such during quali cars can finish their lap and enter the pits directly, Indycar style.

  3. What I was thinking this morning, listening to the various podcasts discussing this matter, is that big guns like Mercedes, who have such a wide array of interests (F1 is just a game for them), are not guys that take this matters lightly. What does the future hold for them? they’ve won everything already and were robbed of this title, frankly. Had they lost it properly, sure, they’d swallow it and try to regain it, but like this? who knows how long they’ll be around now? It’s not a matter of being sore losers, it’s a matter of pride…

    You can blame teams and drivers for using their influence to bend the rules their way. It’s been done forever, it’s not a new thing. But to have the FIA freestyling the interpretation of the rules (good choice of word, there, Toto) on the fly, is a different game altogether.

    I think Lewis will stay for next year. I don’t see him stepping down, it’s not like him at all. He’ll seek redemption, for sure. But Mercedes? I say a couple of years more, at best, and they are GONE! And it’s something no one is talking about… forget Lewis, how are the bosses at Stuttgart gonna respond?

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      17th December 2021, 19:01

      Formula One is a closed franchise and Mercedes a leading stakeholder of it. There’s a reason no one is talking about that, and it’s the same they’re not proceeding with appeals. As you say, “big guns like Mercedes, who have such a wide array of interests (…), are not guys that take this matters lightly”. But F1 is not a game for them. Big guns don’t play games.

      1. I’ve made the same point Jose, you’re not alone, and it’s absolutely correct. The humorous thing about this is some F1 fans are talking about ‘sporting integrity’ being damaged when F1’s franchise model looks more like the much maligned and failed ‘Super League’ which nearly had fans rioting in the UK.

        Merc couldn’t win an appeal, and all it would have done anyway is damaged their own investment.

        1. O please let them leave FFS. Toto/MGP have too much power anyways. I really dislike the grasp Toto is having on the customer teams and drivers he is managing.

          We want a level playing field, starts with showing them the way out.

  4. I don’t understand Toto’s complaint that this is a scenario where the FIA, rather than a rival, are being challenged.

    That’s surely always the case if you are appealing the decision of an official, whether steward or otherwise, who is after all FIA appointed.

    1. OMG the entitlement!

      They think it’s it was already their title (before finishing it) and want to dismiss the last lap.

      If the wanted justice and not “justice”, they would be looking not to “reinstate” a victory that they actually never achieved, but to discuss an opportunity for the drivers to somehow settle it –as improbable/impossible that situation would be to set up.

      Also this bite is interesting:

      ““Every step of the way it was joint decisions,” Wolff said. “We decided together with Lewis to protest, to launch the appeal and to withdraw the appeal.”

      So his good sporting behaviour was all for appearances –TV, social media, etc ?

      Is Sore Lew the two-face cysophant that many people have said he is since he first arrived?

      1. I remember Canada 2019 in that incident that led Seb to getting his 5 second penalty. Lewis complained in the car to the team yet supported Seb (in front of the cameras of course) during his post race antics.

  5. Most sports recognise that officials are acting “in the moment” and often under intense pressure. Coupled with the difficulty of “undoing” a contentious decision, this is why field-of-play decisions are generally allowed to stand even if wrong.

    One recent situation that I think is analogous to Abu Dhabi is the 2019 Cricket World Cup final. In the final over of England’s innings, runs were scored in unusual circumstances (the ball was deflected off a player’s bat as he ran between the wickets) and the umpire awarded six runs when – on a strict reading of the rules – he should only have awarded five. If the error had not been made, England would not only have had one fewer run, but a different batsman would have faced the last two balls of the innings. Because of these counterfactuals it was not possible to “reconstruct” how the innings might have ended – you couldn’t just deduct one run from England’s total as the last two balls were influenced by what had gone before. This is basically the same reason why you couldn’t just transpose the lap 57 classification onto the final lap at Abu Dhabi – it’s impossible to know how the race would have ended if the safety car restart had been handled in a different way.

    I still don’t think there was much wrong with what happened at Abu Dhabi – it would have been good if everyone had been able to unlap themselves, but if that meant not restarting at all then I’m glad they did what they did – but I can see why Mercedes were persuaded, even if they thought they had a case, that there was no real remedy for them.

    1. Tommy Scragend
      17th December 2021, 18:44

      One recent situation that I think is analogous to Abu Dhabi is the 2019 Cricket World Cup final. In the final over of England’s innings, runs were scored in unusual circumstances (the ball was deflected off a player’s bat as he ran between the wickets) and the umpire awarded six runs when – on a strict reading of the rules – he should only have awarded five. If the error had not been made, England would not only have had one fewer run, but a different batsman would have faced the last two balls of the innings. Because of these counterfactuals it was not possible to “reconstruct” how the innings might have ended – you couldn’t just deduct one run from England’s total as the last two balls were influenced by what had gone before. This is basically the same reason why you couldn’t just transpose the lap 57 classification onto the final lap at Abu Dhabi – it’s impossible to know how the race would have ended if the safety car restart had been handled in a different way.

      Excellent comment. And a perfect response to all those who are saying that Hamilton should be “awarded” the win.

    2. I still don’t think there was much wrong with what happened at Abu Dhabi – it would have been good if everyone had been able to unlap themselves, but if that meant not restarting at all then I’m glad they did what they did

      The picking and choosing of which drivers to let pass is something which should never happen again. There’s just no good reason for it.

      But overall not much happened between Hamilton and Verstappen that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. If Masi had acted promptly, told the safety car to slow down a bit, let all the lapped cars through in one swoop, then it’d have been a total non-issue.

      Some would still have complained that the safety car should go around and around until the end, but as the stewards explained there is no need for that – and the teams all agree that racing should always be the main aim of the event, not counting down laps behind the safety car. Or as Toto Wolff said in Abu Dhabi: “No safety car please”.

      1. @MichaelN

        The reason surely was that this was the real fight of the race, with most on the stake for the top 2, so Masi chose to create a situation for the top 2 that you would have had if there were enough laps left to handle things normally.

        told the safety car to slow down a bit,

        Or a lot. According to the rules, the car could have slowed to a crawl.

    3. Not analogous at all.

      Whilst we don’t know how the race would have ended if they had restarted the race with cars not unlapping themselves the other option would have meant finishing under the safety car, there were not enough laps left for anything else. With a very high balance of probability all cars would have finished as they were.

      Or the race could be cut short and base it on positions on lap 57, F1 does have several provisions for this.

      At Spa we saw an example of an extremely shortened race and there was a winner there, should we apply this same logic there?

      1. F1 does have several provisions for this.

        Only if the race is suspended, which the race in Abu Dhabi was not.

        There simply isn’t a way in the rules to take away one lap. Never mind that doing so would mean the race no longer reached the required race distance and thus wouldn’t be a valid result, it simply can’t be done.

        1. Ask Winnie Harlow

          1. Winnie Harlow waved the chequered flag. The regs specify that the race ends at the lap they pass 305km, or when the chequered flag is shown (in which case it appears results are then taken back one further lap, I don’t know why), whichever was earlier. There was no chequered flag on lap 57, so that couldn’t be classed as the end of the race.

        2. Yep the regulations make it very clear that the 75% rule for full points only applies if the race has been red flagged and not restarted. With no Red Flag, in Abu Dhabi, this rule could not be activated.

          I think there is a potential argument to be made that having one lap less would have still made it a valid race, as 58 laps would be completed, they’re just taking the positions from lap 57. The stewards have the power to “ammend the classification”, the rules go no more specific on it than that. Whether that means they could take results from one lap before and still claim it ran the full distance, I don’t think anybody could knownunless it went to court.. After all, under Red Flag conditions this happens; the race has run until the lap the red flag has shown, but the positions are taken from 2 laps before that. But again, it raises the question of could they apply this procedure outside a red flagged environment, which would be a very on the fence call and would essentially be Merc gambling all or nothing on it working.

          1. Go back to SPA they didn’t get anywhere near 75% of the race completed just 3 laps behind the safety car before the race was red flagged then later declared with half points for the top 10 who just happen to be the top 10 qualifiers in the order they started because it happened behind the safety car.
            Biggest winner in SPA, Red Bull & Max Verstappen.
            The result in Abu Dhabi was manufactured to give Max the win & deny Lewis his 8th WDC. FFS he was 10 seconds ahead before the accident & Max was never going to catch him let alone pass, it was game over red rover.

          2. @Lucky Milo

            Don’t forget that Max earned his pole in Spa on merit. If Lewis had done better there, people would be talking about how he was gifted points at Spa.

            Ultimately, cancelling a race has immense financial consequences, so it doesn’t require a conspiracy in favor of a driver for them to go out of their way to make a race count. Don’t forget that Bianchi was killed in part because they didn’t want to cancel the race.

    4. @red-andy I think that’s quite a good analogy that, far from being a cricket fan myself, I hadn’t really considered. However, I disagree with your final paragraph to a certain extent. There was plenty wrong about the final few laps in Abu Dhabi, but none of it directly involved Lewis or Max. I’m not angry or annoyed at who won the title, I would have been fine either way, I’m just incredibly frustrated by how it was won.

    5. @red-andy
      Most of the time it is like you said in sports: It is impossible to say how things would’ve gone if this or that hadn’t happen. That is the case in your cricket example also (if I understand it correctly, I don’t actually know what the rules are in cricket).

      But Abu Dhabi GP was a rare exception: If Masi had followed the rules after his “any doesn’t mean all” decision, the race would’ve ended behind the safety car. I think it is highly unlikely any of the cars would’ve retired during that one lap behind the safety car, since none of them retired when racing that one lap.

      1. Grosjean crashed under safety car, so there’s you procedent. Cars act differently in varying running conditions too. So what you ‘think’ would happen isn’t what ‘would’ happen. What DID happen though was Max leading the last lap under green racing conditions. There’s no way on earth a court would use a hypothetical order to rearrange and result, over a green flag one that exists. Never gonna happen.

        I am not sure what precedent you think you’d create with hypothetical results being made up… but I can tell you it’d not be good for the sport of racing.

        1. I was just commenting on Red Andy’s analogue.

          As I said, it is “highly unlikely” the race would’ve ended in any other way than Hamilton being the champion, if Masi had followed the rules after letting (some) unlapped cars to unlap themselves. I didn’t say that it was impossible.

          Sure, there is a 0,01 % chance (or something like that) of Hamilton crashing during that one lap behind the SC. And that may be an argument why the result can’t be changed. But let’s not kid ourselves and pretend we can’t know who would’ve (with a 99,99 % chance) won the championship, if Masi had followed the rules.

          1. It’s a pointless argument to have though. Procedural errors happen almost every weekend in motorsport. I just don’t think many people take notice (I do and have complained on SEVERAL occasions of officials breaking regulaiton). But when it happens to them directly suddenly it’s a whole different ball game.

            Sure Hamilton probably would have won… but spend 5 minutes in any motorsport paddock in the world and you’ll hear countless tales of “well, I woulda won if…”

          2. Procedural errors happen almost every weekend in motorsport

            But this wasn’t a procedural error. Masi knew the procedure very well and had clearly stated he cannot change them in the past. He chose not to follow them, even though he knew he was required to. It’s very different.

          3. @drmouse

            Masi knew the procedure very well

            If he actually did understand the rules in and out, including what alternative possibilities there are, he would have done what I suggested, instead of what he did.

            Are you seriously going to argue that Masi is highly competent?!

          4. @aapje I’m arguing that he’s run the exact same procedure countless times without fault, and that he’s stated on the record that he must follow that procedure. Given that, it is much more likely that he knew that he was not allowed to do as he did but did it anyway, for whatever reason, than that he just got it wrong this time.

            If there were just one or two random cars missed off the list of those who were to be allowed through, I’d call that a procedural error. I would even count not having another lap as such in that case. But it stretches coincidence too far that it was the cars between Max and Lewis, and only the cars between Max and Lewis, which were allowed past. The chances of that happening by accident are so slim that the only reasonable explanation is that he did so purposefully, completely going against the procedure he knows he is obliged to follow.

          5. @drmouse

            Being able to follow merely one course of action that follows the guidelines doesn’t show mastery of the guidelines. A master can skirt the guidelines without going over. I suspect that Masi thought that he was following the guidelines, even though he wasn’t.

            You are assuming that Masi actually understands that he can’t merely allow some cars to unlap. I’m not that optimistic about his level of preparation and/or his capabilities.

            Note that understanding the he didn’t follow standard procedure is not the same as knowingly breaking the rules.

          6. @aapje his previous statements on the issue completely contradict that

          7. @drmouse

            Claiming to have principles that he doesn’t have, just makes him human.

      2. @hotbottoms I believe, although I’m not the biggest cricket fan myself, your understanding of Andy’s comment is correct. However, I think part of the problem is what you say there in the final paragraph. It’s highly unlikely they would have had any change in how it ended, but with different circumstances in play, it would be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt (which I assume is the legal standard required here, but I’m not sure. It might be “on the balance of probabilities”, in which case it would be easier, but likely still not straightforward, to prove). There are an almost infinite number of possibilities that a court would likely have to consider (not individually obviously) that could have affected it, had different circumstances applied during that final lap.

        For the record, I do definitely feel that Hamilton was wronged, and nearly a week on I’m still feeling very uneasy about it. However, from my understanding of legal procedure (and I am completely unqualified in law btw, I’m just interested in things like this and had been long before Abu Dhabi), it would have difficult for Merc to actually get a court on side.

        1. As Alan points out above, it’s almost impossible that a court would side with a hypothetical situation over the outcome that actually occurred.

          And it would create bad precedent for the future. Not that this weekend hadn’t done that already; I just hope that the investigation concludes that the end of this race should NEVER be used as precedent under any circumstances.

          1. You Go Chavez
            18th December 2021, 7:48

            Look at Mercedes complaint they weren’t seeking a hypothetical solution.

            What they did ask for is the race to end on lap 57. Based on the fact that there was an illegality beyond that.

            That seems reasonable considering the impact affected all cars still in the race.

            Lap 58 should not count as part of the gp. if they can persuade a court of this there is no need to apply any hypothetical situation as lap 57 and all the preceding laps were actually played out.

            The next test would be whether the race could be considered complete with the exclusion of lap 58. There are numerous examples of this being so and for different reasons.

            So then a court has two options accept to rule out that one lap or void the entire race.

          2. @You Go Chavez

            What they did ask for is the race to end on lap 57. Based on the fact that there was an illegality beyond that.

            Yes, their request is to have an outcome that isn’t according to the rules, instead of another outcome that is not according to the rules. But why would a court favor one illegal outcome over another?

            Fact is that the teams strategized for 58 laps, not 57.

            The irony here is that you are doing wat Masi did: ‘it’s not exactly according to the rules, but I think that it is fair.’

      3. @hotbottoms

        If Masi had followed the rules after his “any doesn’t mean all” decision, the race would’ve ended behind the safety car.

        But the argument is that this call to only let some cars pass was illegal, so you can’t then argue that we should take the result with that happening! That’s just cherry picking to engineer a result: if we allow the illegal call to only let some cars past, but require the extra lap for the safety car, then the race would have finished behind the SC and Lewis would be champion.

        But you can’t just cherry pick like that!

  6. If they had appealed to the court, then the whole race would have been reviewed. And I think Ham would have received a 10 sec time penalty for gaining an advantage by going off the track during the first few laps. One cannot cherry pick things to be reviewed once the “cat is out of the bag”.
    There was enough apparent favoritism on both sides that this could go on forever. Decided on the track, leave it at that.
    I still think Ham should have been given a one race ban for punting Ver off the track at Silverstone. Some of the other, older, drivers, would have died with a 52 g impact. JMHO

    1. Not so, the relief of the court would be to consider the application of the complainant.

      Unless the FIA or Masi decided to contest with a counter claim and there again, the difference is Masi or the stewards considered something that is down to interpretation.

      This complaint is about an illegality.

      If they want to also look that incident then Verstappen overtaking Hamilton user safety could also be reviewed?

      I think it would be a five second penalty for leaving the track and gaining and advantage and why don’t they just look at the whole season whilst they are at it ?

  7. They wouldn’t have been able to overturn the result, there was no mechanism for it. Alan Dove called it!

    1. All I did was reading the FIA F1 Sporting Regulations (and actually someone on Reddit mentioned it first)… but thank you for the shout out :)

      There’s no court that would overturn lap 58 either (the only way Hamilton is champion). it would be absolute madness for any court to do that.

      Anyway, we can move on. how this was going to end was obvious as soon as Merc mistakenly filed the appeal in the first place.

      1. Thanks for your insightful commentary while everyone else’s hair was on fire :)

  8. I am unsure what a sensible change could look like.

    The problem I see is that you cannot write rules, which cover every possible situation in such a complex sport. And I think that is neither what the sport needs, nor what the fans want, because we would all be looking at even more legal paragraphs than we are already doing. At the moment I like the idea of race control having the last word, the possibility to override certain rules in split-second decisions. That is what the stewards said: the race director controls the safety car. That power will not be taken away from race control, that would not make sense. Yes, in Abu Dhabi Ferrari and McLaren were inconvenienced by not all lapped cars being allowed to overtake, but someone is always inconvenienced by a safety car. That’s racing.

    Just like the stewards appropriate blame in case of a crash: case by case. This is no exact science, the exact percentage of the partial blame of a driver is never more than an approximation. That is the same as in other sports I watch: sometimes referees and judges get it right, sometimes they don’t. I wouldn’t expect Formula One to be any better.

    I can understand that the British press will milk this topic all through until next season. In other parts of the world this issue has all but gone quiet. In general the sentiment is that sometimes you get lucky with the safety car or red flag, sometimes you don’t, but it evens out in the end. Which it surely did this year.

    One thing I think will change next year is that the team principles can directly talk to the race director and pressure him. That played a part in the whole mess. And it riles up the fans, leading to further polarisation. I think it is quite detrimental to the sport, if we see such superb driving like Perez’s defence against Hamilton and then we hear Wolff and Hamilton complaining to the race director about “dangerous driving” and Hamilton doing the same when Alonso defended against him. Formula One should seriously think about not broadcasting such messages. While it might make for good entertainment, you will always get fans, who will take such messages at face value.

    I’m a fan of the sport, I stopped being a fan of individual drivers a long time ago, when my favorites kept dying. I know this will never happen, but I would urge more people to become a fan of the sport and look at what is good for the sport instead of ruining the sport in hope of getting a little advantage for driver A or team B. I am not the first guy to notice the rampant toxicity in the sport, smarter people than me have recently commented on it, I just feel the need to back their message.

    1. For once, I would like to see the following:
      1. Enforce track limits.
      2. Try to take away even officials gaming the system: For instance, if VSC/SC is followed by a red flag, the race returns to the original order before the VSC/SC was issued. To me, this is simply race control being unable to estimate if the race warrants a red flag on time or not.
      3. There’s still a possibility of VSC followed by SC — I need think a bit more here as to how race control cannot game this system.

      1. Stop crowding / run your opponents out of space. Leave room for each other, doesnt mean you can’t defend, but just leave room on the exit.

        Watched the year summery tonight, if both gentlemen left more room, we would have seen more exciting races and more overtaking. Even overtakes that would last for corners.

        I would rely love to see that

        1. @hannesch

          You are going to have a lot of crashes that way, because the front car won’t be able to judge when the rear car has its wing alongside.

          1. @aapje

            No excuses. Larger mirrors, camera’s, sensors. Even road cars have these kinds of options

    2. You Go Chavez
      18th December 2021, 7:09

      Of course you cannot write rules for every situation but what unique situation are you talking about?

      There are precedents to what happened on Sunday, races have finished under safety cars before – there was even one this very season.

      A final race of a season in which the drivers champion has not yet been settled is not a unique situation !

      Going back to the rules, whilst they dont cover everything they covered what happened at this gp.

      Damaged car and debris on track = safety car

      Before safety car ends = ALL or no lapped cars unlap themselves

      Safety car comes in on next lap

      Those rules or precedents must be consistently applied whether the first or last race

      One thing that is being ignored is that these rules are specific because they address safety concerns if you think a race director should have free reign over decisions concerning marshalls, drivers, mechanics even spectators safety, then a disaster would be imminent.

      Of course the options left in this case would have prevented a spectacular end to the race and season but they are within the rules

      From what you are proposing, say on a track like Paul Ricard where they have additional run off areas. The RD could have the discretion to ask drivers to use those parts of the circuit to continue racing instead of a safety car due to there being a car and debris on track?

      Would that be acceptable ?

      The exact issue here is there were rules for the events that took place but for reasons known only to the race director he chose to not apply them!

  9. I think the reason I find it so hard to buy into arguments that it was a profound sporting injustice is that fundamentally what occurred between Verstappen and Hamilton was exactly the intent of the rules. Ie. green flag racing as soon as it was safe with the lapped cars out of the way. It was also what Hamilton and Mercedes expected to happen judging by the radio messages when the SC came out.

    The way Masi handled it wasn’t really correct, and it’s part of a trend of him “freestyling” with the rules as Wolf puts it, which is a problem. But the outcome wasn’t unreasonable given what the rules intended, and a more competent application of the rules as they were written would likely have still got us to the same result.

    It is also quite hard to stomach the indignation of Mercedes on the basis of sporting integrity. Do they think we can’t see how they behave in DTM? Does Wolf think we have forgotten the way he forcefully reminded Russell that he expects Mercedes junior drivers to race their cars differently? The “Mercedes way” of motor sport is one of naked cynicism. And that cynicism from car manufacturers like Mercedes is one of the main reasons why the FIA needs to retain a position of total authority when it comes to sporting matters. If you allow a system of independent appeals and challenges to sporting decisions then the nature of F1’s total competition would mean the sport would get bogged down in lawfare over every other stewarding decision.

    The FIA needs to retain the ability to arbitrarily dismiss even legitimate complaints otherwise the political power of the teams would grow to an unmanageable degree.

    1. @ads21

      HAM and Mercedes — based on the radio message — weren’t sure if the race would restart or not. But, they took the gamble that if the procedure had been followed, the race would be unlikely to restart. Masi was busy ensuring the incident area is cleared until Lap 56. That’s why he even mentioned that lapped cars won’t be allowed to overtake as the marshals were on the track cleaning, but he wanted to bring in the SC car in Lap 57. But then, they changed the mind in Lap 57 — and broke the rules.

      On sporting integrity — both Mercedes and Red Bull have clear expectations of what their sister team can do and cannot. Heck, even their #1 and #2 drivers in their own teams can do and cannot. They have the “politically correct” way of saying things for PR. But, we all know how Gasly went over the corner that allowed VER to overtake in one of the recent races.

    2. @ads21

      The FIA needs to retain the ability to arbitrarily dismiss even legitimate complaints otherwise the political power of the teams would grow to an unmanageable degree.

      If you take such authoritarian measures and coupled with such rule breaking, then the sport would rule any meaning. First, let FIA show that they will apply rules in a consistent manner; heck, just even follow the rules that are established properly and then we can talk about dismissing legitimate complaints. Ignoring legitimate complaints is one sure way to drive the sport into the ground.

    3. @ads21

      On one condition. The FIA must be independent from the teams. To much people with a history with team x or y may never exist.

      The appearance of impartiality vs the reality of impartiality.

    4. @ads21 So what’s the point of having rules then?

      Once the FIA has decided who is going to win the WDC in 2022, we’ll be able to tell by the wins they’re gifted.

  10. I don’t get why Toto keeps repeating how it was unfair Lewis was a sitting duck. That was not unfair, that was unlucky. If we had a less chaotic race control we’d have a finish within normal procedure, as it would have been possible to release lapped cars at the end of lap 56.

    Losing all the time you gained, removed lapped cars and a tyre disadvantage is all just part of the game. If Toto feels that’s unfair, he should try and change those rules for next seasons, but we’ve had these rules since the 2012 season.

    1. @montalvo It is unfair because the rules were not followed.

      If Masi had allowed lapped cars to go through in Lap 56 by coordinating with the marshals, brought in the safety car in lap 57, and allowed green flag racing — yes, that was unlucky. Everyone would have accepted the end result.

      Masi was busy taking care of the incident to be cleared till Lap 56 — as the marshals were still cleaning the circuit; and by the time it was Lap 57 — it was too late to follow procedure as the race would end in safety car. So, he broke the rules to get the last lap racing in.

      Just like how Red Bull took a chance that the race will be restarted, Mercedes took the chance that the race will not be restarted — had the procedure been followed. That’s why it’s being treated “unfair”.

      1. It is unfair because the rules were not followed.

        Why do people keep insisting this? Have you not read the stewards ruling?

        You cannot just ignore rules you don’t like and only insist those you like are followed.

        1. We have all read the stewards ruling. They also said 48.12 was not followed. FIA investigating itself, is post-rationalizing that 48.13 overrules 48.12, when the rulebook doesn’t say so.

          If indeed, the race director controls the entire safety car deployment, then why even bother writing anything else for the safety car — if it is not going to be followed.

          1. Those were just guidelines.

            And because all teams signed a letter of intent for finishing under green after Spa, Toto could expect anything to happen. So the sitting duck thing is BS.

          2. @hannesch They are not “guidelines” they are the regulations of the sport.

            The teams expressed a preference. They didn’t ask for the rule book to be torn up.

  11. Hamilton hasn’t said anything. Wolff said they made the decisions with him. But I suspect he more than anyone at Mercedes’ wants to put it behind him. He has to think of his legacy. He wants to be remembered for his 7 titles and records not for a scorched earth pursuit of an unachievable end out of pique, however justified. There is no upside for him. The best they could get is Masi’s head and I suspect Masi is busy refreshing his CV right now.

    1. Well if if it’s justified or not is just an opinion. Wolff can say they have a case but it doesn’t mean they have. For someone who says he has a lot of respect for the other drivers and for the rules, they are breaking them too when they see fit. Hamilton not giving interview and not showing up at the (boring) FIA gala, as stated in the rules, is also disrespectful. It would have been the opportunity to show how they aren’t bad losers. Luckily we can leave these shenanigans behind us and move forward to a new season.

  12. Nobody of us, neither him or us, want to win a world championship in the courtroom

    That’s why you lodged a second protest after the race claiming Verstappen overtook Hamilton under the Safety Car before the restart.

    1. Because stewards’ room is not court room.

      1. @macademianut
        Though it has to go through the stewards room before reaching the courtroom :)

    2. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      17th December 2021, 21:25

      Yeah it is not like Toto hasn’t been caught in a lie before :-)

      1. horner and co would have created a video for the appeal. merc has much higher standards in terms of fair racing, but they were cheated.

    3. petebaldwin (@)
      18th December 2021, 0:44

      I didn’t quite understand his argument to be honest.

      He said “none of us wanted to win a World Championship in a courtroom” but then he also said “we have decided not to appeal because we wouldn’t have gotten the result back.”

      Surely the reason for not appealing is because they didn’t want to win the Championship that way? He seems to be contradicting his own argument a bit there….

  13. I don’t particularly like Max or Lewis, or have any warm feelings for Mercedes or Red Bull as teams so I’m not seeing this as a partisan issue. However I think it’s important to separate out the intention behind Mercedes’ actions after this race, and the specific event that led to it. I started watching F1 back in the 80’s, and controversial decisions aren’t anything new. Decisions with a whiff of “gloss over it for the sake of the show” aren’t new either, whether that was allowing Senna to get away with some disgraceful on-track behaviour, or banning technical innovations that had been judged within the rules only weeks prior. F1 like any sport has its share of wrong decisions or mistakes.

    This year has been unprecedented for me in terms of the consistency … of complaints from all sides about inconsistent, incorrect, or inexplicable enforcement of the rules. Both Red Bull and Mercedes, and both drivers, have at some point excoriated the enforcement of rules, and usually with some genuine merit. That indicates that it’s not being driven by one person’s “bad temperament”.

    At this point, it is fair to say that F1 cannot enforce even the most simple rules. “The track is defined by the two white lines” …. apart from when it isn’t. Or if the director changes the goalposts from one day to the next on the same track. “A driver must leave space for another car’s width if they are alongside” … apart from when he doesn’t. It’s nonsense. There has been a slippery slope on this prior to Masi’s tenure, but it became an avalanche this year. Nobody knows from one race to the next, or one lap to the next, how (or even if) a rule will be enforced.

    Any sport can get an individual decision wrong and survive, but if it can’t keep consistent with its own rules, then it’s not a sport. Sport is very specifically about performing a set task in a given rule framework. No rules, then the task can’t be judged, and it’s not a sport.

    So in this context F1 is like any other corporate entity for whom a hugely embarrassing public disaster has taken place, and their response is like any other entity’s would be: batten down the hatches, express solidarity with the “exceptional staff” and make up any sort of guff to justify why things were done the way they were. What happens next will not be down to right or wrong, or within the rules or outside the rules, or precedent. The existing decision will be found to be correct. Why then would Mercedes go through this appeal and public demonstration, when surely they know that? Because they need to force the FIA to do something, and I think Red Bull would be acting exactly the same way. Because if you have to report to someone who is shelling out literally hundreds of millions *every year* for the privilege of being graciously allowed by the FIA to continue to spend hundreds of millions to serve the FIA’s public relations game, then that money comes with strings. It came with strings when FOCA was set up, when the FOTA was set up, when Ferrari wanted a veto. We are in the “behind the scenes” game now. Mercedes, behind closed doors, will be telling the FIA that as far as the board is concerned, they can stick their sport because the veneer has peeled away. VAG will be saying the same.

    It is one thing for a sport to be able to say “oh X was robbed, bad luck, that’s the way it goes sometimes” because at least you can think “well next time it might go their way instead”. When the FIA can’t even guarantee that it knows what it will do with its own rulebook at any given moment, then you aren’t spending your hundreds of millions on sporting chance, you’re spending it on unknowable whims of protected individuals, and that’s not tenable. So Merc and the other teams will be watching like hawks. Masi will probably find a sudden urge to pursue other opportunities outside F1 after years of distinguished service some time in January. The new team will probably come up with radical ideas like “always enforce track limits every single time”. If they don’t, their internal credibility is shot and why would anyone sign up to that?

    1. Now this is COTD material right here.

      1. Agree. Great CoTD choice.

        We can only hope that Masi can move to the level of his competence – a new career as a SkyF1 TV presenter.

    2. The track limits isn’t a very fitting example though, as it is not actually required that F1 drivers observe the white lines. This was changed in either 2015 or 2016 (way before Masi became race director). The current regulations, in 2021 this was 27.3 of the F1 SR, merely require drivers to ‘make every reasonable effort’. In keeping with F1’s management-style under the previous race director, the rules now state that it is the sole and absolute authority of the race director to compel a driver leaving the track to ‘give back the whole of any advantage he gained’.

      Why make a point about this? Because it shows F1 can and has changed the rules if it cares to. Problem is: this is a rare example. On the whole the F1 community – teams, drivers and the FIA old-timers – are swept up in the ‘let them race’ idea and have used that, in combination with secret documents circulated among teams (the infamous Wolff e-mail), to override the actual written rules. But they haven’t changed the rules.

      Anyone can see where this goes wrong: it leads to confusion on the part of the participants who are left to experiment to see what is still allowed and what isn’t (see the Alpine-Alfa discussion in Texas, or the double standards when it comes to pushing people off), it greatly increases the power of the race director and stewards who can now pick and choose who to penalize (remember Alonso’s complaints about never arguing with Whiting for that very reason), and it leaves fans in a state of constant agitation about the unfairness of it all.

      Hopefully, the new FIA president will immediately instruct his team for racing related affairs to insist that the FIA Code is observed at all times and without exceptions. This means no crowding people off the track. No exceptions for when this or that percentage of the car is alongside in this or that corner, or other such nonsense. The rules are simple. And to circle back, the common FIA rules on track limits should immediately be reinstated in F1, which means drivers simply cannot leave the track.

      The FIA can still ‘let them race’, but that should be reflected in the rules. Rules should then be simple, unambiguous, public and consistently applied. People who spent their officiating career in the F1 bubble under Whiting and Masi are probably not the right people to make that work. Luckily the FIA has an excellent team of people in the WEC and ELMS. Bring some of those to F1. Penalize people for their antics, and they’ll learn quickly to drive nicely; this simply isn’t a problem in many other FIA categories.

    3. @MichaelN

      Or if the director changes the goalposts from one day to the next on the same track.

      In the first race, it changed when the race was half-way, when enforcement at a certain corner went from non-existent to strict, when Max started doing it as well.

  14. I feel completely ok with the way the race was managed by the race director. He allowed for racing and made sure the race ended under green flag conditions.

    Yes, Merc hoped to finish under the safety car, but earlier on the radio they did tell Ham that Ver “he will be [behind you]”. And yes, RB called Massi they did not pressure him, first asking “why are the lapped cars not being allowed through” and then pleading “we only need one lap”.

    I believe the confusion is caused by the rather panicked reactions of Merc when they realized they were pretty much a sitting duck. Of course they feel strongly about it, what was lost was great, but I find this degree of dramatisation a bit much.

    Proud owner of a Mercedes Benz car, so I am not biased whatsoever.

    1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      17th December 2021, 21:24

      Very well worded and fully agree

  15. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    17th December 2021, 21:22

    Mercedes had no chance at all not with appeal, not with CAS nor any public court.
    Lewis was not robbed of the championship, he simply had back luck.

    All teams agreed and pushed to do the utmost not to finish under SC, Masi did exactly that and well within the rules and authority given to him. Would it have been better if all lapped cars would have been allowed to unlap themselves already on lap 56 instead of only 5 on lap 57, yes but to claim that rules were broken or that Masi purposely acted with intend to prevent Lewis from wishing is as ridiculous as the Brazilian being outraged and blaming Glock for deliberately slowing down.

    That the outcome doesn’t suit Mercedes is their problem. Toto is now trying to make it FIA’s problem but it is not. As said before I am amazed that the FIA allows Toto to continue his personal vendetta against Masi.

    As a team boss his behavior, public anger and comments towards Masi and FIA are absolutely ridiculously and very damaging for the sport and an extremely bad example. It would be good if Mercedes and/or the FIA sents Toto on a mandatory anger management training as he badly needs one.

    1. bad luck of a race director braking the rules. this was race controls fault, not totos. he and his team was betrayed, but biased anti-fans use even such situations for weird arguments. its a shame and a disgrace to the sports.

      1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
        17th December 2021, 23:27

        No rules were broken as confirmed by the stewards but guess the Lewis biased fans can’t simply accept that same as Toto, in your world Max is still at fault for Silverstone and stewards were wrong to give Lewis a meaningless penalty.

        I agree that Toto is a disgrace for the sport.

        1. @jelle-van-der-mere Even the stewards admitted they didn’t follow their own rules.

    2. Bad luck is misfortune, this was incompetence or deliberate and no way to decide the title between the two best drivers (and car combination) for years. From a Mclaren fan.

      1. @stjs16 From a fellow McLaren fan, who spent a large part of the season supporting Verstappen, before deciding to be neutral for the final few races (Verstappen’s driving had turned me off him quite a bit), I completely agree. No one deserves to have the championship decided like that. I’m not annoyed at who wond because I feel that they’ve both been excellent all season, but Masi’s rule breaking decided the championship in a way that is indefensible (although naturally the FIA will be able to defend him).

        1. McLaren sucks. Their driver got screwed out there and they didn’t say anything.

      2. Jelle van der Meer (@)
        17th December 2021, 23:38

        Well I guess we disagree and disappointed that you suggest that Masi deliberately acted with intend to favor a specific driver, Masi would have done the exact same if the situation was reverse. The goal was to finish the race under green flag and that goal was achieved within the rules.

        I seriously doubt there would have been this much articles about it on this website and other British websites nor would there have been so much negativity towards Masi from British fans.

        1. @jelle-van-der-meer Then why did the stewards admit they didn’t follow the rules? Tricky one, that.

    3. All teams agreed and pushed to do the utmost not to finish under SC

      Do you have a source for this?

      We all know that Masi told the stewards (when they were processing the protest Mercedes made) that “it had long been agreed by all the Teams that where possible it was highly desirable for the race to end in a “green” condition”. But I haven’t seen anyone (not even Red Bull) claim that any of the teams had agreed that Masi could ignore or override the rules to achieve this goal.

      1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
        17th December 2021, 23:29

        No rules were overridden, the rules specifically give the race director the authority to handle the safety car as he sees best fit.

        1. @jelle-van-der-meer
          Whether article 15.3 gives the race director the authority to override article 48.12 is debatable. Masi even himself said after Eifel GP in 2020 that because of 48.12 he can’t let only some of the lapped cars unlap themselves.

          But even if article 15.3 gives Masi the authority to override article 48.12, then overriding the rules is exactly what Masi did: He overrided the established procedure in article 48.12 – which I don’t think has ever been done before.

        2. @jelle-van-der-meer No such rule exists. The stewards are willfully misreading a separate rule (15.3) which defines the working relationship between the Race Director and the Clerk of the Course and outlines which of them has authority in certain matters. It certainly does not give the Race Director carte blanche to freestyle and make up his own rules.

          Have you actually read the regulations?

  16. Yes, HAM is a great driver.

    Yes, the rules were enfroced inconsitently at Abu Dhabi – but they also were throughout the season.

    But Toto Wolff is a deluded meglomaniac. He talks on the press confrence (see motorsport.com) about how Lewis was never overtaken during that race … What about turn 6 on the first lap Toto ? He talks about how HAM drove the last 4 races, but ignores the previous 18…

    Please Toto – just leave if this is your view of the truth!

    1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      17th December 2021, 23:40

      Yes please, get rid of Toto and for good measure Horner as well.
      Both contributed to much of the toxicity this season.

    2. I can’t see why there is so much hatred against Masi and Horner while Toto is appraised for his actions.

      I prefer the strong words from Horner which are spoken very calmly and controlled over the hollow political (read untrue) words from Toto who seems to be a person who cannot controle himself.

      1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
        17th December 2021, 23:51

        Yep Toto definitely needs anger management training.

        I agree that Toto has taken it to a whole other level and the FIA should firmly take action against it to make clear such behavior is unacceptable, in many other sports Toto already would have been suspended.

        Do think you paint a slightly prettier picture of Horner than reality, certainly after his Marshall comments, both away from F1 would be good for the sport.

      2. @hannesch “I can’t see why there is so much hatred against Masi and Horner”

        Well, that’s the first problem.

  17. In short, FIA have created a criminal-like net with no chance to sue them for cheating.

    1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      17th December 2021, 23:45

      There was no cheating, so there is no case.

      Pretty much all sports are governed that way, I do not know of any football match result ever got changed in court or by UEFA/FIFA after a claim that a referee did or didn’t give a penalty or a red card nor counting or not counting a goal.
      The decision made by the referee is final, they have now the VAR but still the referee has the final call. No different than that Masi has the full authority to handle safety car situations as he best sees fit.

      1. In football referee choses from his options, but Michael Masi created his own option that was not in the rules. See the difference? It’s like a referee in football would start scoring goals by himself and no-one was allowed to protest it.

  18. McLaren disappointed me. Danny Ricciardo was treated unfairly. He pitted for fresh tires and was not allowed to unlap even though the drivers he was competing with were unlapped. This is why McLaren is a mid-tier/lower-tier team. Red Bull and Mercedes battle for every single point available. McLaren didn’t say anything when their driver is told to hold his position behind Max. A once great team that is just happy to be out there driving around.

    1. There was no point complaining for a couple of points, see the difference to ferrari in the title.

    2. Also, don’t forget, although red bull and merc were unlucky to not make it happen, mclaren was the only team to get a 1-2 this year, and that race they had enough pace to win on merit.

    3. Yep, I keep hoping. Danny Ric should have been on it earlier in the season to beat Ferrari.

  19. As much as Iv’e tried the last week I,m afraid the sour taste just we not leave me.
    Nothing against Max or Red Bull they deserved to win looking at the season as a whole.
    But any way I look at it this was a manipulated finish to the race.
    I don’t believe there was any intention to fix the race either they just wanted a showbiz finish so Masi used his powers to change established procedure.
    What happened was just plain wrong and the fact that most experts and pundits except it with a shrug of the shoulders makes me think they are all afraid of upsetting the FIA who lets face it are judge jury and executioner.
    I see no option but for Lewis to walk away, a lot of fans wouldn’t miss him anyway. For some reason they seem to hate him.
    But he has enough of a large fan base who will turn their backs on the sport forever.
    F1 will carry on but will forever be tarnished by this tawdry episode.

  20. Would it have been as controversial if we had had a red flag? Freezes position;allows tire choices for all (a rule I’d like to see go away-to me, it should be required to run what you have when racing resumes); would have had maybe 3 or 4 green laps;could have had standing or rolling restart. Weighed against this is perhaps the situation would not normally need a red flag. My general reaction is so what. It might have been better to exercise this judgment than what was done. Maybe there are other reasons against it I am not considering. If Max had dominated the race and been leading and had opted for track position and stayed out, and lewis had pitted for fresh tires and had won with a last lap pass, I might have concluded that was unfair. A red flag seems to me a better overall option. Also, for me, this incident doesn’t stand alone on evaluating the F1year. Track limits and giving each other racing room were constant undesirable focuses of attention all year. They contributed to the politicization of the paddock and it seems no progress was made over the entire year. If I had just been elected to run the FIA, I would be sure any year end review looked at these issues also.

    1. @don-knowles

      There was no reason for the red flag, so it would have been a violation of the rules to engineer a battle. In my opinion, it’s a lot worse than what happened (at least, with regards to the Lewis-Max fight).

      I also have no doubt that Lewis’ fans would be extremely upset and that Mercedes would also have objected if Max had overtaken Lewis & the other way around if Lewis would have won.

  21. Having taken a week to process what happened, I just realised that there was an equal chance of a race restart and Lewis being under pressure from Max even if FIA had taken the correct decision to allow all cars to un-lap themselves. If you look at Jolyon Palmer’s analysis, he thought there was a window on with 3 laps to go to allow all lap cars through. Had that decision being taken, it’d still cost Lewis a title. What do you’ll think?

    1. Still disappointed but rules would have been followed. Just bad luck for Lewis.
      Everybody would have moved on by now.

  22. As I wrote a few days ago, it was the biggest, fattest, utterly pathetic premeditated fraud in sporting history.
    Verstappen is and willalways be a paper champ.
    Deal with it.

    1. Hamilton’s 2008 championship, for many, had a shadow cast over it with the Spygate scandal. The car wasn’t developed in completion isolation of the data McLaren had which meant they were DSQd from the 2007 WCC championship and fined $100m

      Senna in 1990 did a rather questionable move on Prost for the title whch many still feel was a stolen championship.

      Schumacher in 1994 did a questionable move on Hill and we have the accusation of illegal use of TC.

      So this concept of ‘paper’ champion is nonsense. All the above are worthy champs… because that’s just how racing works.

      There’s no such thing as a paper champion, and ‘true’ champion… just a champion. Every driver knows the game in motorsport. For every successful driver there’s 100 underneath them who were screwed over.

      1. Alan Dove,

        Hamilton’s 2008 championship, for many, had a shadow cast over it with the Spygate scandal

        Apart from that, In the 2008 German GP Hamilton was given the place by Kovalainen due to a disguised team order by McLaren in the same corner that Massa gave the position to Alonso 2 years later. Hamilton went to overtake Massa and push him off the track in 2 consecutive corners and eventually won the race. No penalty was given at that time and he won the championship that year by 1 point.

        Alonso was literally grilled in the press conference and later that season by the British media in 2010 German GP for being gifted the victory by Massa due to a disguised team order and some went too far to call him a dirty champion. The thing is that some are bringing the episodes that favourite Max this season just to tarnish him forgetting that in the past Hamilton has benefited from the exact same episodes and even more.

  23. So Toto still telling bedtime stories. Get over it, but more importantly take responsibility for your strategical error.
    As I stated begot, there were 6 corners to decide before the pit entry when the sc wad called out.
    6 corners to either gamble on ending the race under sc or to keep your diver out on 40 laps old worn tires.
    They gambled wrong. Masi did only created the circumstances, Mercedes the strategy.
    So toto stop moaning about others and take responsibility or step down if you can not.

    1. He did take responsibility, He made the world aware of the incompetent/deliberate mismanagement of the safety car unlapping, this was no way to decide the title, you have two amazing drivers in a completely different league to the others and yet the win was decided by farce for the third race in a row.

  24. It seems that Mercedes’ lawyers agree with the opinion of some on this forum that at most, the race can be annulled.

  25. In order to avoid disadvantaging a leader who has earned the lead through skill, Safety Car deployment should be banned; instead either invoke only a Virtual Safety Car period, or if too much track debris then Red Flag the race and restart the race when convenient. This routine would be fairest for all and would relieve Massie from teams badgering.

  26. I think a lot of this boils down to the application of the safety car in the final laps. Normally there is a straightforward procedure, but F1’s new-found desperation to end every race with green flag running ensures inconsistent and confusing, improvised decisions.

    This isn’t the first time race control has made up rules on the fly in the final laps, and it won’t be the last. If they absolutely must continue with this approach of getting the race going at all costs, there at least needs to be some rules for what happens if the safety car comes out with less than X laps to go.

    I’d never be an advocate for gimmicky nonsense, likes NASCAR’s greeen-white-checkered finishes, but at least there is a clear threshold for when that is and isn’t applied. From the moment the yellow is shown, the drivers, teams, and commentators know exactly what the procedure is. The confusion and flip-flopping of last week just makes everybody look stupid at the best of times, never mind when it decides the title.

    Personally I’d rather keep it as pure as possible; no giving lapped-cars a free pass, no more arbitrary red flags, no more doing whatever it takes to shoehorn in a finish. If it ends under SC, so be it. But that’s not going to happen, so at least come up with an actual procedure for it.

  27. It seems like a win-win solution. The FIA avoided the embarrassment of being defendant, judge and jury at the appeal and Mercedes got the the FIA to admit that “serious lessons” need to be learned from the Race Director’s mistakes.

    As others have pointed out, Mercedes had nothing to gain financially – they are the World Champions despite the FIA’s actions. Hamilton had a championship taken from him but seems man enough to take it on the chin. Verstappen seemed to be acknowledging the hollowness of his victory when he said races should be won on the track, not in the Race Drector’s office.

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