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Verdict shows Mercedes appeal against Verstappen's 2021 title was hopeless

A special ruling in a recent case involving a GT race shows that Mercedes would have potentially lost any appeal surrounding the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Verstappen Max Jos Abu Dhabi 2021
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

A judge has ruled in a case surrounding a GT race where the circumstances were similar to the controversial title fight between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 Abu Dhabi final race.

During the International GT Open in Spielberg last September, the Safety Car was sent out three times during the second round of the race weekend.

At the second Safety Car period, the restart took place in the wrong order. One of the competitors, Team Motorpark, lodged a protest due to the Safety Car infraction caused by the Race Director.

A decision to cancel the race and therefore the classification was made in the aftermath, following a decision in the National Court of Appeal of the Spanish Automobile Federation Real Federacion Espanola de Automovilismo (RFEdA).

FIA International Court of Appeal get involved

Following this result, a further appeal with lodged by fellow competitors Optimum Motorsport against the decision made by the Court of Appeal of RFEdA.

This went to the FIA International Court of Appeal (ICA), which determined that the neither the stewards at the event or the RFEdA court had the specific power to cancel the race based on the applicable regulations.

This would only be possible under "Force Majeure or safety" according to Article 2.1.6.a of the FIA International Sporting Code. In addition, the ICA also ruled that the stewards did not have the specific right to amend the results.

In its ruling, the ICA said: "Articles 11.9.2.a and 11.9.3.j of the Code must be interpreted within the framework of Article 11.9 of the Code, meaning that the Stewards cannot annul the results of a competition."

As a result, Optimum Motorsport drivers Dam De Haan and Charlie Fagg were declared the champions instead of Eastalent Racing drivers Christopher Haas and Simon Reicher several months after the championship had ended.

Could the same have happened for Abu Dhabi?

The case shows what could have potentially happened if Mercedes had appealed the result of the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Although the circumstances were different, the outcome of a protest against a race result following an error from Race Direction sets a precedent.

In the case of Abu Dhabi, the championship was decided after Race Control made the controversial decision to only allow the lapped cars between leader Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen through to un-lap themselves instead of all lapped cars during a Safety Car period.

This enabled Verstappen to start the final laps on fresh tires, directly behind Hamilton. How that final lap unfolded, we all know by now.

In the aftermath, Mercedes lodged two protests. The first claimed that Verstappen overtook Hamilton during the Safety Car period and the other related to Race Director Michael Masi not applying the regulations correctly. Both protests were dismissed and Mercedes lodged an intention to appeal.

Mercedes subsequently dropped its appeal notice in the "interests of sporting fairness" and elected to work with the FIA and F1 to create clarity for the future.

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