Verstappen: Mercedes protest 'sums up this season'

1st place and new World Champion, Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B. 12.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina
© XPB 

Newly crowned Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen said that it pretty much summed up the season to have rivals Mercedes lodge an official protest against his victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Verstappen claimed a dramatic last gasp victory at Yas Marina after a late safety car set-up a one lap showdown for the race win and the title.

But Mercedes are unhappy with the way that race control handled the process, which included allowing five lapped cars to pass the safety car before the green flag in a breach the regulations that say drivers cannot overtake the car ahead under the safety car.

Mercedes also protested the way Verstappen went side-by-side with race leader Lewis Hamilton through turn 12 before the restart.

It left Hamilton a sitting duck on old tyres compared to the Red Bull which had switched to a fresher set of softs, and he was quickly overtaken and finished two seconds behind his rival by the line.

Verstappen and the Red Bull team were partying late into the evening in the paddock, even as the stewards met with drivers and representatives from both teams after Mercedes met the formal requirement to make the protest within 30 minutes of the finish, and

"Not much really to say about that," Verstappen told the media including when he learned of the latest developments. "I think it also sums up a little bit this season.

Defending the way he had appeared to harry Hamilton before the restart, Verstappen explained that "I could see he was struggling quite a bit for the hard tyres to warm up and I had the grip, so I could stay relatively close.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B battle for the lead at the start of the race. 12.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina

"On the soft tyres, that first lap you could clearly see I had more grip. But then you still have two very long straights after turn 5 where you have a chance to come back.

"It was all pretty close between us," he said, adding that he had simply been attempting to "react to what he is doing" and "of course try not to be too far away".

Red Bull boss Christian Horner - who earlier said that race control had got it absolutely right with the way that it had got the race restarted in time - issued a short statement about the Mercedes protest.

"We are disappointed there has been a protest, but we trust in the FIA," he said.

In separate comments to Dutch broadcaster Ziggo, Horner echoed Verstappen's comments by saying that "They are now lodging a protest, or two protests, but you know it's been that kind of season."

Horner said it would be damaging to the sport to have the result on the track overturned by backroom decisions hours after the finish.

"I don't think it's good for anybody," he said. "It's disappointing that the protests have been made, but I guess that's what we've come to expect this year.

"[We need] a quick conclusion. [Verstappen] has won the World Championship, they cannot take that away," he said. "Max has just driven an unbelievable season.

"We needed a little bit of luck," he acknowledged of the chaotic finish. "We were desperate for a safety car, we got it. Mercedes didn't pit, we pitted. [Max] needed to make it work and that's what he did.

"We're very, very proud of the way he's driven. Not just this race, but this whole season."

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