It could be another massive day in the 2021 title fight - despite no F1 action taking place on track - as the stewards gather representatives from Mercedes and Red Bull to discuss the incident between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Mercedes have taken up their option to request a right of review after 'new evidence' in the form of Verstappen's onboard footage emerged after the race, with a meeting set for 17:00 local time in Qatar (14:00 UK time) to determine whether this will be accepted.
In order to trigger a full review, Mercedes must present a significant and relevant new element that wasn't available for consideration by the stewards at the time of the decision, with the stewards then accepting this new element as relevant to the investigation.
How does the 'right of review' work?
The FIA states in the International Sporting Code that teams are entitled to a right of review. In other words, every team has the right to have a situation reviewed. Mercedes are now making use of this right, but need to present relevant new evidence.
Although the stewards noted the incident between Verstappen and Hamilton at the time, they ultimately opted against taking any further action. And, after the chequered flag, FIA Race Director Michael Masi admitted that some camera footage was missing when the stewards made that call.
Mercedes believe that the new (onboard) footage might prompt the stewards to rethink their original decision. In addition, they will undoubtedly present data such as Hamilton and Verstappen's racing lines, along with braking points and steering movements.
Article 14.1.1 of the International Sporting Code reads: "If, in competitions forming part of an FIA championship, cup, trophy, challenge or series, or of an international series, a significant and relevant new element is discovered which was unavailable to the parties seeking the review at the time of the decision concerned, the stewards who have given a ruling or, failing this, those designated by the FIA, may decide to re-examine their decision following a petition for review.
"The stewards must meet (in person or by other means) on a date agreed amongst themselves, summoning the party or parties concerned to hear any relevant explanations and to judge in the light of the facts and elements brought before them."
What penalties might Verstappen face?
First of all, the stewards need to decide if there is enough fresh evidence to proceed with a full review. If they do so, Mercedes will have to formally protest against the decision made during the Brazilian GP.
Once this happens, the incident will be reviewed by the stewards, with the following possible outcomes for Verstappen:
- A five-second time penalty, added to the result of the Brazilian GP
- A grid penalty of three or five places for the Qatar GP
- No penalty for Verstappen
A five-second time penalty would drop Verstappen from second to third position, with Valtteri Bottas gaining a spot. As a result, Verstappen would lose three points and see his lead in the World Championship shrink from 14 to 11. Mercedes would also edge further clear of Red Bull in the Constructors' standings.
A grid penalty is another outcome, with three places being used most often in the past. A recent example of this would be the clash between Verstappen and Hamilton at Monza, with Verstappen picking up a grid drop for the next round in Russia.
Last but not least, the stewards can still decide that Verstappen does not deserve a penalty. The chances of this are smaller, however, as it would most likely be communicated during the right to review process, after assessing the data made available at that time.
This was the case for Red Bull earlier in the season, when they wanted a more severe penalty for Hamilton following his crash with Verstappen at Silverstone.
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