Red Bull racing team principal Christian Horner feels that Mercedes' arrival at the stewards' room armed with legal counsel to protest the outcome of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a "bit desperate". Max Verstappen was confirmed as the 2021 World Champion, almost four hours after the end of the race, following much deliberation with the FIA race stewards.
The high intensity, controversial end of the 2021 F1 season could not have been scripted better, after the topsy-turvy campaign was settled in the final lap of the last race. Hamilton looked to be cruising to his record breaking eighth world championship with 10 laps to go before Williams' Nicholas Latifi put his car in the wall bringing out the safety car with six laps remaining.
Red Bull were quick to react and pitted Verstappen from second for a set of the fast soft compound tyres. Mercedes chose to keep Hamilton out and protect their track position, despite the danger of the field being bunched up together if the race were to restart.
Hamilton had five backmarkers between himself and Verstappen, and it was initially decided that they will not be allowed to pass before the Safety Car was called in. However, in what has now become the biggest controversy of the 2021 season, FIA race director Michael Masi decided to allow the five cars to unlap themselves bringing Verstappen right behind Hamilton for the final lap.
The Mercedes of Hamilton, which was running on hard tyres that were almost 40 laps old, was no match for the Red Bull on a fresh set of scrubbed soft compound tyres. It took Verstappen just a few corners in the final lap to pass his title rival and maintain the lead to take the win in Abu Dhabi and claim his maiden F1 world title.
Mercedes were incensed with FIA's decision with team principal Toto Wolff screaming at Masi for his decision. They felt cheated and immediately launched two protests with the race stewards, which delayed Red Bull's celebrations.
After much deliberations, with both teams called to the FIA stewards' room on more than one occasion, the stewards decided to uphold the results and reject both of Mercedes' protests. The Silver Arrows team, however, are not ready to back down and have confirmed that they have taken up the option to appeal the decision, which Red Bull have every intention to fight, even if it means going to court.
"It obviously felt a little bit desperate but we didn't want it to finish in front of the stewards," Horner said, as quoted by the Daily Mail. "We never wanted to end up in front of the stewards, there was obviously a lot of debate before the race. It was a shame it ended up there but the stewards made the right call."
"We have talked about 'let them race', Niki Lauda was the guy who pushed hard for it and we've always talked about not finishing racing under safety cars, the race director in difficult circumstances made absolutely the right call and strategically we got it right."
"If they appeal, they appeal. We'll fight them in the appeal court and then in the legal court after that if they were to go that route," he added.