Aside from the possibility of an appeal from the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, Max Verstappen has been confirmed as the World Champion of 2021 after the stewards in Abu Dhabi dismissed both protests following the conclusion of the final race of the season.
Mercedes protested two decisions made during the final couple of laps at the Yas Marina Circuit, the first being that Verstappen passed Lewis Hamilton as the outgoing World Champion slowed the pack down ahead of the final lap restart.
The second protest was about the way the FIA and race director Michael Masi decided to allow only the five cars in between Hamilton and Verstappen through ahead of the restart rather than the whole pack, and then immediately indicating that the safety car period was ending at the end of the lap.
The first protest was dismissed quickly, with the stewards feeling that Verstappen did nothing wrong, even though he was briefly ahead of Hamilton for a matter of seconds before falling back behind him. The important part was that the Red Bull Racing driver was not ahead of Hamilton at the finish line.
The second protest was more intricate, with Mercedes claiming that the FIA rules were not followed to the letter, with only five of eight lapped cars allowed to unlap themselves ahead of the restart, which came on the same lap as the message was given that those cars could move ahead of the race leader.
The five drivers in between Hamilton and Verstappen – Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel – were all informed to pass the safety car prior to the restart.
However, those behind Verstappen, namely Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher, were not allowed to unlap themselves, with Mercedes believing that all eight should have been allowed to pass Hamilton and then be given an additional lap to try and recover to the end of the queue.
However, the FIA says that Masi made decisions that were within his right as race director, and as such the stewards threw out the second protest, confirming Verstappen as World Champion.
It is unlikely to be the end of the story, however, as Mercedes will be looking at possibly appealing the decision, so Verstappen’s championship triumph is not yet one hundred per cent confirmed.