The stewards at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have ruled to not uphold Mercedes' protest of the race classification, after the team lodged two official protests.
Mercedes lodged a protest specifically against race- and title-winner Max Verstappen over an alleged breach of the Sporting Regulations, which was promptly dismissed by the stewards. But the second protest was against the race classification, and called into question the decisions made by Race Control in the closing stages of the 58-lap encounter.
The protest was lodged on the grounds of a breach of Article 48.12 of the FIA's Sporting Regulations, namely the regulations that "...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 also "...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 Race Director Michael Masi instructed several, but not all, lapped cars to pass leader Hamilton, allowing Verstappen to restart the race from directly behind his title rival on the final lap, Mercedes argue that had the above article been adhered to, Hamilton would have won the race.
The request from Mercedes, which were represented by Andrew Shovlin, Ron Meadows and QC Paul Harris, was to amend the classification in accordance with Article 11.9.3.h of the FIA's International Sporting Code, which states that the stewards "may amend the classifications".
Red Bull's arguments
Red Bull, which were permitted to attend the hearing as interested parties, lodged a defence.
Their argument was that the use of the word "any" in Article 48.12 doesn't necessarily mean "all".
Further to that, Article 48.13 of the Sporting Regulations states that the message "Safety Car in this lap", which was shown on Lap 57, is the signal that it will enter the pit lane and that, therefore, this overrides Article 48.12.
Red Bull added that Article 15.3 gives the Race Director "overriding authority" over "the use of the Safety Car" and that, even if all the drivers that had been lapped (eight in total, five of whom unlapped themselves) unlapped themselves, it would not have changed the outcome of the race.
Masi speaks up
Masi, who could be heard shutting down Mercedes' Toto Wolff's protests over the radio on the final lap, then gave evidence, saying that the purpose of Article 48.12 is to remove lapped cars that can interfere in the leaders' racing and that, in his view, Article 48.13 was applied in this case.
Masi also stated that it's a long-standing agreement between all the teams that, where possible, races should end under green flag conditions, and not under a Safety Car.
The stewards throw out the protest
While the stewards acknowledged that the grounds under which Mercedes lodged the protest were admissible, they declined to uphold it.
After consideration, the stewards ruled that Article 15.3 allows the Race Director to control the use of the Safety Car, including deployment and withdrawal.
Acknowledging that Article 48.12 may not have been fully applied, the Article 48.13 argument presented by Red Bull overrides that.
As for Mercedes requesting that the race classification be amended to the order of the previous lap, the stewards ruled that this would be a retrospective shortening of the race and, therefore, "not appropriate".
As the team have the right to appeal the decision of the stewards, Mercedes have taken the opportunity and confirmed that they intend to lodge an appeal. They have 96 hours to do so.