16 December 2021

Christian Horner: Mercedes had no grounds to appeal against Abu Dhabi result

16 December 2021

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner claims Mercedes did not have a strong case to appeal against the result of Sunday’s controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Mercedes announced on Thursday they were withdrawing their appeal against Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s dramatic world-title winning last-lap victory.

Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the last lap to deny the Mercedes driver a record eighth world title after a safety car deployment had allowed the Dutchman, on fresher tyres, to close up behind the Briton.

We didn't really feel that there was the ground for it (an appeal). Safety cars are usual in Formula One.

Mercedes appealed after the race on the grounds that only five of the eight lapped cars had unlapped themselves before the safety car was withdrawn, which was against regular protocol. Precedent would suggest races in such circumstances ordinarily finish behind the safety car.

Mercedes’ protests were rejected by stewards after the race but the team had the option to take the matter further. They have now decided against this, confirming Verstappen as world champion.

Horner said of Mercedes’ appeal: “We didn’t really feel that there was the ground for it. Safety cars are usual in Formula One. We have seen it throughout the season.

“Obviously the determination of the race director is always to get the race going again. That has been a clear mandate for many years. A lot was made of it but that’s the way it is.

“We felt many things have gone against us this but things have a habit of balancing themselves out over the course of the year.”

Horner (left) and Verstappen (right) are celebrating the the world title (PA Wire) (PA Wire)

Horner was speaking at a press conference in Paris ahead of the annual prize-giving gala of the FIA, motor sport’s world governing body.

Sat alongside him, Verstappen said the threat of an appeal, which could have taken the title off him, had not bothered him.

Asked if he was concerned, he said: “Not really. We were having a really a good time as a team.

“We knew we won it on the track when there was a green light or a green flag. Nobody could ever take that away from us, so I was in a good mood.”

Verstappen was also asked if he felt sorry for Hamilton.

The Dutchman said: “No, I don’t feel sorry but I understand it can be very painful. But, at the end of the day, that is racing. You have to keep fighting until the end and, in racing, anything can happen. He also won a championship like that, so I think he can understand as well.”

Hamilton’s future in the sport is not clear, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has said (PA Wire) (PA Wire)

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has said he fears Hamilton “will never get over” what happened in Abu Dhabi and could not even guarantee the seven-time world champion would continue in the sport.

Verstappen said: “Of course I can understand that the first few days after a race like that you are not happy.

“But this is racing, these things can happen to you. He should just look back at what he has achieved already. That should give him a lot of comfort and that drive to keep going.

“He is still trying to challenge for that eighth title and I am sure he can do that again next year. I don’t see any reason to give up or stop now.”

Mercedes were not represented at the press conference. With the team the constructors’ champion, Wolff would have been expected to be present, as would Hamilton as runner-up to Verstappen.

Neither Hamilton (right) nor Wolff (right) were at the event (PA Wire) (PA Archive)

Both opted not to attend the gala while the second Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, who was third in the championship, had travel difficulties.

Jean Todt, the outgoing FIA president, chose not to dwell on their absences.

He said: “I think we should savour it (the gala) rather than try to get into any kind of controversy. What (good) would it do?

“I feel sorry because Mercedes should have much more reward – eight (successive) times world champion for the manufacturer is unique and they made an outstanding job.

“Are we going to punish for not attending? This is not the platform to speak about that. We should be above that.”

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