SPORT – Max Verstappen of the Netherlands is the new F1 world champion. Verstappen passed Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the final race of 2021, to claim the title.
It went right down to the wire. The two best drivers racing head-to-head on the last lap. What could be more exciting? Not only that, but the Dutchman stopped UK´s Hamilton from winning his 8th title in a row.
The competition was over 22 races on four continents
All season, Verstappen and Hamilton have been neck and neck. And yesterday was no different in this most thrilling of finals. It came right down to the end in this last race in Abu Dhabi. But after the announcement of the winner, controversy followed the decision as Mercedes disputed the win.
Furthermore, the discussion regarding the decisions continued on Twitter, with many Tweets suggesting Hamilton was robbed and that F1 did not follow the rules regarding overtaking.
Mercedes lodged two protests after Max Verstappen passed Lewis Hamilton on the final lap after the safety car departed. However, after more than three hours of deliberation, both appeals against the result brought by Mercedes were dismissed by race officials.
The tension is not over yet, as Mercedes have lodged their intention to appeal these verdicts. The first protest was launched regarding the restart procedure by the F1 race director, Masi. And, the second was claiming Verstappen overtook Hamilton under the Safety Car.
The chain of events leading to the controversial win began when William’s driver Nicholas Latifi crashed on lap 53 of 58. Consequently, this triggered a Safety Car. While this was happening, The Dutchman made a pit stop and changed his tyres.
Then, when Masi announced ‘lapped cars will not be allowed to overtake’, this would have presented an almost impossible task for Verstappen to clear the lapped cars. However, subsequently, Masi then said the track was safe enough to let a few backmarkers overtake.
On this penultimate lap, Masi sent a message saying that only five cars – Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc, and Sebastian Vettel could unlap themselves.
This was unusual, as normally a decision to allow this, would be sent to all cars. Moreover, it was these five cars that would have made it impossible for Verstappen to clear.
According to autosport.com, initially, the race director had been within his rights to state ‘lapped Cars will not be allowed to overtake’. However, it was Masi´s subsequent decisions that sparked the controversy against the Regulations.
F1 sporting regulations
Article 48.12 and Article 48.8 of the F1 Sporting Regulations regarding the Safety Car are as follows;
Article 48.12 deals with the situation of having backmarkers unlap themselves.
Furthermore, this regulation is clear about when the race can be restarted.
It states: “Unless the clerk of the course considers the presence of the safety car is still necessary, once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap.
48.12 states, “if the clerk of the course considers track conditions are unsuitable for overtaking the message “OVERTAKING WILL NOT BE PERMITTED” will be sent to all Competitors via the official messaging system”.
Article 48.8 relates to there being no overtaking behind the safety car. It states, “no driver may overtake another car on the track, including the safety car, until he passes the Line (see Article 5.3) for the first time after the safety car has returned to the pits.
The way Masi handled the situation, and the immediate restart is what led Mercedes to protest.
Throughout the competition, no one else was anywhere close to the leaders, however, 2 Spanish and one other British team member finished in the top ten. Spain´s Carlos Sainz for Ferrari finished 5th, UK´s Lando Norris was in 6th position with McLaren Mercedes, and racing for Alpine Renault, Fernando Alonso finished 10th for Spain.
The 2022 championship season begins in Bahrain on March 20. The competition next year will see even more races. Two of which will be in the US.