After taking the lead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the start, Lewis Hamilton looked to be easing to his eighth Drivers’ Championship at the Yas Marina Circuit.
However, Nicholas Latifi’s late crash brought out a safety car and it turned the race on its head.
Verstappen pitted for softs and got one lap to challenge Hamilton who was on old hard tyres.
Initially the lapped cars between the two title rivals were not allowed to unlap themselves. However, race director Michael Masi changed his mind.
It allowed the Dutchman to attack the Mercedes on the restart and he passed him with a big lunge in turn 5 to win the race and championship.
Following the race, Mercedes protested two things which were ultimately dismissed:
- Verstappen briefly overtaking Hamilton under Safety Car conditions
- How the final classification came about after Masi allowed the lapped cars between Verstappen and Hamilton to unlap themselves
On the first matter: "The Stewards determine that although Car 33 did at one stage, for a very short period of time, move slightly in front of Car 44, at a time when both cars where accelerating and braking, it moved back behind Car 44 and it was not in front when the Safety Car period ended."
And on the second appeal, they said: “Article 15.3 allows the Race Director to control the use of the safety car, which in our determination includes its deployment and withdrawal.
“Although Article 48.12 may not have been applied fully, in relation to the safety car returning to the pits at the end of the following lap, Article 48.13 overrides that and once the message “Safety Car in this lap” has been displayed, it is mandatory to withdraw the safety car at the end of that lap.
“Notwithstanding Mercedes’ request that the Stewards remediate the matter by amending the classification to reflect the positions at the end of the penultimate lap, this is a step that the Stewards believe is effectively shortening the race retrospectively, and hence not appropriate.”
Nonetheless the controversy is not over as Mercedes issued a statement saying: ''We have lodged notice of intention to appeal the decision of the Stewards under Article 15 of the Sporting Code and Article 10 of the Judicial and Disciplinary Rules.''