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Max Verstappen took the top spot on the leaders' board after winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but was officially confirmed the F1 World Champion only on Thursday after Mercedes decided to drop their appeal against a controversial last lap Safety Car decision by Race Director Michael Masi.
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team today released a statement saying they will not appeal the outcome of last Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, officially conceding the Formula One World Drivers' Championship to Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.
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The Dutch driver will collect his trophy in Paris on Thursday.
In the statement, the team said, "We left Abu Dhabi in disbelief of what we had just witnessed. Of course, it’s part of the game to lose a race, but it's something different when you lose faith in racing."
Mercedes said "we believe that every competition should be won on merit. In the race on Sunday many felt, us included, that the way things unfolded was not right", and added: "The reason we protested the race result was because the Safety Car regulations were applied in a new way that affected the race result, after Lewis had been in a commanding lead and on course to win the World Championship."
The team added that they have since had a "constructive dialogue" with the world motorsport regular FIA and Liberty Media-owned Formula 1 to create clarity.
Mercedes congratulated Verstappen on winning a "truly epic" championship fight and called Hamilton "the greatest racer in the history of Formula 1".
Team Statement - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix pic.twitter.com/tgrBjrNkcz— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 16, 2021
In Sunday's incident-packed race, pole-sitter Verstappen found himself quickly overtaken by reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, who was gunning for a record eighth world title.
Red Bull initially employed a two-stop strategy, in which Verstappen switched out the soft tyres for hard tyres around the 16th lap of the 58-lap race, while Mercedes gambled with a single pitstop, in which Hamilton was given fresh hards. Despite his best efforts -- and a Virtual Safety Car after Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi put his car into the wall at a particularly tricky corner -- Verstappen was not able to catch up to Hamilton, who looked set to take the crown.
All this changed when Nicholas Latifi crashed into the wall with just five laps left in the race, forcing the deployment of the Safety Car. Red Bull rolled the dice one last time, brought Verstappen in and switched his ageing hard tyres for fresh softs. Verstappen regained his place in the lane, but separating him and Hamilton were the back markers.
So far, so good.
However, with one lap left, Race Director Michael Masi allowed the back markers to overtake the safety car, bringing Verstappen, with the much faster soft tyres, almost level with race leader Hamilton. The moment the safety car came in, Verstappen zoomed past Hamilton and took his maiden world title.
It was this decision that Mercedes initially chose to appeal before deciding otherwise.
With Reuters inputs
First Published: Dec 16, 2021 4:58 PM IST