The 2021 Formula One World Championship ended in controversy after the late safety car restart, but Mercedes now needs to drop its protest against the FIA – or risk coming out of the saga the bad guys.
Now everyone has slept on what happened in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, calmer heads can now prevail.
In the bear-pit of emotion that was the paddock on Yas Island on Sunday evening, tensions understandably were high.
Of course, Mercedes was going to protest the manner in which the safety car period was dealt with by race director Michael Masi.
Both protests were flung out by the stewards on initial appeal – with the team stating they intend to appeal this to the International Court of Appeal.
But Mercedes now needs to drop its protests. For the sake of F1, for Lewis Hamilton’s sake, and far more importantly, its own.
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Mercedes needs to drop FIA protest
A championship decided in a courtroom many months after the season has ended might be good for F1 over the winter.
After all, there’s only one thing worse than being talked about, right?
Producers of a certain Netflix show might also be salivating at such a prospect, but for Mercedes to drag it on now will do untold damage.
The longer Mercedes pursues the protest and appeal, the more the team will come to look like sore-losers and the bad guys.
It will look like now eight-time Constructors’ champions can’t handle the fact that they were beaten by a better driver over the season.
The world championship was decided over 22 grands prix in 2021 – not just one. Max Verstappen was the better driver.
Mercedes appeal puts doubt in mind
In the UK, the race was broadcast free-to-air on Channel 4 and not just behind pay-channel Sky Sports F1.
This opened F1’s product up to a vast swathe of untapped potential. Perhaps someone just stumbled across it whilst having their Sunday lunch and decided to watch.
What they saw was a thrilling last-lap shootout for the world title between The King and the usurper, determined to take the crown for himself.
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Our hypothetical fan doesn’t give a hoot about safety car restart infringements or lapped cars getting out the way.
They tuned in to see a straight fight, and, by hook or by crook, that’s exactly what they got.
Hamilton must take blame
Hamilton complained that the race was being “manipulated,” and a strict observance to the rulebook suggests he has a point.
The race should have restarted at the end of the following lap after the cars were let through to un-lap themselves – or at the end of the final lap.
This would have handed him an eighth title.
Sure, he was held back like an anchor by the old, worn, hard tyres he was on compared to Verstappen’s fresh soft rubber, but he still had track position.
A driver of Hamilton’s calibre must have known Verstappen was going to lunge him at Turn 5 – given his racing philosophy.
Why not park it on the apex and let Verstappen drive around the outside?
If he does, then fair enough. Hats off. The best guy won.
Mercedes protest does no favours
To drag it off the track and into the courts was an entirely predictable way for the 2021 championship to end – whatever happened and who won if something happened.
It is now that the time has come for Mercedes to drop its protest and move on.
Sure, it will sting losing in such a manner, but that can be used as motivation for 2022.
The longer it goes on, the more the team simply looks like sore losers with an axe to grind.
Use that hurt and pain to power on and regain the title lost.
Surely that’s a better way for Mercedes to win a world championship than through protests, appeals and the courts?
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