Mercedes looks set to still protest the result of the 2021 F1 world championship, with barrister Paul Harris QC leading their case, but who is he? Which cases has Harris been involved with in F1? How did he once successfully defend the team?
Of the two protests Mercedes put into the stewards on Sunday night, one was always destined to fail.
Max Verstappen’s alleged breach of Article 48.8 about overtaking behind the safety car was thrown out by the stewards.
It was race control’s failure to follow Article 48.12 of letting lapped cars un-lap themselves and the safety car restart procedure that was Mercedes’ main case.
The team has signaled its intent to appeal to the FIA International Court of Appeal about the last lap in Abu Dhabi, that it feels, by a strict reading of the rules, should never have happened.
Leading the protest for the team is Paul Harris QC – but who actually is Harris? What cases has he worked before in F1?
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Paul Harris QC
Harris is based at the Monckton Chambers in London, and was called to the bar in 1994.
He became a ‘silk’ in 2011 – another name for a QC – or Queen’s Counsel.
Harris attended the University of Cambridge and University of California, Berkeley – attending the latter on a Fulbright Scholarship.
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The Legal 500 describes Harris as “the best sports lawyer at the Bar,” and that he is one of the most “tenacious advocates,” of a case he is working.
Harris has worked on some of the biggest sports cases in the last few years – not just in F1.
F1 cases Harris has worked
The relationship between Mercedes and Harris can be traced back to summer 2013.
The team conducted a private tyre test mid-season with supplier Pirelli to help them understand the rubber in greater detail.
Mercedes ran the test in secrecy with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg wearing plain helmets during a time in-season testing was banned.
Harris argued that because it was a Pirelli test, who were not subjected to FIA rules – Mercedes did not conduct the test themselves, per se.
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The team was found guilty of breaching the rules, but the only sanction was a relatively light ban from the Young Drivers Test.
In addition, Harris has spent time working with Racing Point (now Aston Martin) on its case against the Alfa Romeo team.
This came in 2019 at the German GP when Alfa were found to have used illegal clutch settings and were disqualified from the race on appeal.
What other sports has he represented?
Probably the most famous case Harris has represented a client on was the Manchester City Champions League ban in 2020.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned City’s ban from UEFA’s flagship competition for financial fair play breaches with Harris leading City’s defence.
He’s also worked with Liverpool on the Luis Suarez biting incident at the 2014 World Cup and other top Premier League teams including Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United.
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