Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Just less than an hour after Mercedes’ first protest was dismissed, the second has also been rejected by the stewards.
Mercedes’ second protest was concerning article 48.12 of the FIA F1 Sporting Regulations and the fact that the Safety Car process wasn’t followed exactly as it’s written. Only the lapped cars that were between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen were allowed to pass and that the Safety Car is only supposed to come in the lap after the lapped cars pass it, and not on the same lap.
The article states that: “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.”
As a consequence of what they thought was a breach of protocol, Mercedes were protesting the race classification itself, saying that had the rules been followed exactly then Hamilton would have taken the victory.
The stewards however feel that the Race Director, Michael Masi, is in control of when the Safety Car should be deployed or withdrawn and that it had been previously agreed by all teams that, where it was safe to do so, it was preferable to end races under green flag racing rather than in Safety Car conditions.
That might not be the end of it though as the decisions of these protests can still be appealed by Mercedes.
UPDATE: Mercedes have lodged an intention to appeal the decision of this protest.
The full decision read:
The claims of Mercedes:
Mercedes claimed that there were two breaches of the Sporting Regulations (Article 48.12) namely that which states “..any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car” and “…once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap.”
Mercedes argued that had this been complied with, Car 44 would have won the race.
They therefore requested the Stewards to amend the Classification under Article 11.9.3.h of the FIA International Sporting Code.
Red Bull’s arguments in defence:
Red Bull argued that
1. “Any” does not mean “all”.
2. The Article 48.13 of the Sporting Regulations states that the message “Safety Car in this lap” is the signal that it will enter the pit lane at the end of that lap.
3. That therefore Article 48.13 “overrides” Article 48.12.
4. That Article 15.3 gives the Race Director “overriding authority” over “the use of the safety car”.
5. That even if all cars that had been lapped (8 in total, of which 5 were allowed to overtake the safety car) it would not have changed the outcome of the race.
Race Director’s Evidence
The Race Director stated that the purpose of Article 48.12 was to remove those lapped cars that would “interfere” in the racing between the leaders and that in his view Article 48.13 was the one that applied in this case.
The Race Director also stated 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 (i.e. not under a Safety Car).
Conclusions of the Stewards :
The Stewards consider that the protest is admissible.
Having considered the various statements made by the parties the Stewards determine the following:
That Article 15.3 allows the Race Director to control the use of the safety car, which in our determination includes its deployment and withdrawal.
That 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.
That 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.
Accordingly, the Protest is dismissed. The Protest Deposit is not refunded.
Competitors are reminded that they have the right to appeal certain decisions of the Stewards, in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Chapter 4 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits.