Red Bull ready to settle title fight in law court as Mercedes consider appeal

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Red Bull are prepared to fight Mercedes every step of the way as their rivals bid to overturn Max Verstappen’s world championship victory.

Mercedes brought two protests over the outcome of yesterday’s controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which Verstappen won after passing Lewis Hamilton on the final lap. Both protests were rejected by the stewards, who confirmed Verstappen as the winner of the race and therefore the world champion.

However Mercedes have since formally notified the FIA they intend to proceed with an appeal over the handling of the final restart of the race.

The team was enraged by FIA F1 race director Michael Masi’s U-turn on a decision not to wave lapped cars past the Safety Car before the restart. Masi eventually chose to allow five of the eight backmarkers through, enough to bring Verstappen within striking range of Hamilton.

Having given notice of their intention to appeal, Mercedes now have to decide whether to proceed. Horner said Red Bull are prepared for whatever legal steps their rivals might take.

“If they appeal, they appeal,” he said. “We’ll fight it in the appeal court and then in a legal court after that.”

Mercedes’ protest over the outcome of the race “felt a little bit desperate”, said Horner. “We didn’t want it to finish in front of the stewards.

“They’ve been great competitors this year and Lewis has been a phenomenal driver. It’s had its moments, it’s been tense, it’s been tough. But we’re just delighted with the outcome and very proud of Max, who’s been phenomenal all year.”

Horner said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Mercedes proceed with an appeal. “But I think the race director made his position clear, the stewards made their position clear and the ruling is very clear.”

Asked whether Mercedes’ move could jeopardise the FIA’s planned prize giving ceremony for its world champions on Thursday, Horner said: “I hope not.”

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2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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96 comments on “Red Bull ready to settle title fight in law court as Mercedes consider appeal”

  1. Cas and the eu need to be involved to save the reputation of the sport.. fia mafia and massi did a singapore 2008 and covering they’re asses the fia are a joke they’ve been trying to stop Mercedes with these crap clipped floor rules that allowed the drinks company to compete.. when Mercedes and ferrari embarrassed them all these years. Smh

    1. If FIA is against Mercedes, then why in 2014, the FIA let Mercedes have a 3 year head start to develop their engine, which no other team managed to top ?

      1. Are you mistaking Mercedes for Renault?

        1. You really sounded uninformed now.. serious. You missed a lot it seems.

    2. I actually agree it should go to a court above the FIA. Not to change the championship result (because the original intention was to restart with lapped cars remaining where they were, and so Max would still have had a chance to win), but to start the process of improving the way the sport is governed.

      What Masi did seems to have been without precedent and made up on the spot. There’s a strong case that it contravened the rules he’s supposed to be enforcing, and we know he understood this because he realised there were not enough laps remaining to let cars unlap themselves, hence the original message to not overtake.

      He did this to help “the show”, which was no doubt a direction given to him across the entire season by Liberty Media, at the expense of doing what they would have at any other race. Ironically that’s something Christian Horner was adamant was a priority, to treat this race like any other, which did not happen.

      Keep Max as champion. He deserves it (even if Hamilton does too). But the FIA and Liberty Media need to be held to account for their consistent effort to muddy the rules in deference to “the show”. It’s not good enough.

      1. @simon999 100% agree with this. The championship result shouldn’t be changed but what happened should never be allowed again. The only circumstance a race director should be allowed to circumvent the rules is when safety necessitates it. Not to manufacture a battle between only 2 drivers in the field.

        Also, imagine if roles were reversed what Horner and Red Bull would be doing or saying about it?!!?

        1. The problem with letting Max keep the win, is then setting a precedent that it’s okay to do a scandal like this, cause then they get to keep the championship even it the scandal is overturned in court later. It is actually much more complicated than just doing partial justice. Because it isn’t a race win. It is the World Championship.

          1. 100% agree. What makes it worse is the way RB celebrated the ‘win’. Disgusting

      2. @simon999 With all due respect, just to correct you it would be very unlikely max would win if the race restarted with only 1 lap to go and lapped cars in place as Lewis could tactically sprint early to start the last lap whilst slower cars on older tyres would by default ‘hold’ max up as he cannot overtake until the start finish line..this delay would be enough of a gap for Lewis to stay in front for the last lap.
        masi knew this that’s why he invented new rules to help max and moved the cars out of the way so max is right behind Lewis.
        Max isnt to blame for this and the most fair outcome was for the last green lap with lapped cars in place, Max would still get close to Lewis for the hype drama finish Liberty media/drive to survive wanted but nope that wasn’t good enough and masi/race control wanted max right behind lewis on the restart for an easy overtake on brand new softs.
        Again you cannot invent FIA rulings on the fly to benefit only one driver, this isn’t the WWE. Even if you forget about Lewis for a moment other drivers got impacted by the stewards bizarre new rules, drivers like carlos sainz in 3rd was disadvantaged because he was behind traffic and couldn’t potentially challenge max.

        Also i totally disagree with you about not overturning the results, the results need to be reversed for the legitimacy of F1, meddling and on the fly rule breaking by the race stewards cannot be left unpunished, if there is no deterrent what will stop them doing this in the future?

        Also If lewis can be excluded from Brazil quali because of his rear wing being 0.2 mm out of spec due to ThE RuLeZ Mercedes are more that entitled to challenge the result of this race no thanks to artificial meddling by race control inventing rules out of thin air breaking FIA protocol.
        If Merc are not above the ‘law’ neither are the FIA and FOM and Daimler are fully well aware of this!

      3. The problem with reversing the result is its Not the Fault of Max that the Race Director decided to pull the rug from under Sir Lewis! You could argue that if the race was red flagged all drivers would have changed for fresh rubber and that Either Lewis or Max could have won. And that would have been fair.
        Te situation is now what it is the descision by Masi nullified the Championship by maipulating the outcome.
        . Perhaps the ruling should be that the 2021 season was a non event?
        Hamilton will not want the title handed to him in court I think he’d be happy if the result stood but the FIA admitted that their poor implementation of the rules may have deprived him of his 8th title and issued an appology.

    3. RandomMallard
      13th December 2021, 9:29

      Definitely agree about Merc taking this to the Court of Arbitration for Sport; being an external court (i.e. not the FIA) they’re the most likely to rule on how badly FIA screwed up and how, or if, it can be resolved.

      1. RandomMallard
        13th December 2021, 9:32

        Not sure how much jurisdiction the EU courts would have, I guess it depends on where the legal entities are based. The FIA are based I Paris, Red Bull are registered in Austria, but based in Milton Keynes (UK), while Merc are German registered but based in Brackley (UK), and of course with the UK not being part of the EU anymore I’m not sure how much power the EU can have on it.

        1. Since it is not a private sport and sports personalities involved are representing their country’s flags, they have a lot of say and jurisdiction.

        2. The EU courts would be involved only in so far as they are the courts that would come into play if any of the parties disputes the FIAs standing as sole regulator in this matter (Briatore went to the EU courts after his ban for Crashgate, because he argued that his position as team boss at the time actually was not one regulated by the FIA rules, and he won that one).

          1. Tommy Scragend
            13th December 2021, 14:22

            I can’t see how anyone could argue that the FIA is not the sole regulator of the FIA Formula One World Championship.

      2. @RandomMallard

        The FIA doesn’t recognize CAS as an arbiter, aside from for doping related matters. FIA is a member of WADA, which is bound by CAS, so on doping matters, FIA is bound by CAS as well.

        Mercedes only option is to go to FIA’s International Court of Appeal.

        1. The FiA literally has a paragraph on their website about how if you don’t accept their appeals decision, the next step is the CAS. Beyond that, they have taken and been taken to the CAS dozens of times. Beyond even that, the FiA contribute to the CAS anti doping committee.

          Will you stop lying. Are you so narcissistic that you think if you say it, it comes true, or are you deliberately spreading misinformation?

          1. @Will Jones

            You are probably confusing the The International Court of Appeal is the final appeal tribunal for international motor sport.

            “The International Court of Appeal is the final appeal tribunal for international motor sport.”


            And I said that FIA does recognize CAS when it comes to doping matters, so nothing in my comment seems to be wrong.

            I await your apology.

          2. @apaje

            13.1 For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in these rules shall prevent any party from pursuing any right of action which it may have before any court or tribunal, subject at all times to such party having first exhausted all
            mechanisms of dispute resolution set out in the Statutes and regulations of the FIA

            So Mercedes have to go through the FIA ICA first who have the same power as the stewards to apply any penalties or change any result, after that, any court (such as the CAS) is open to them.

            One little tid bit, the regulations say any review to the appeal decision (which affects a championship result) must be requested before 30th November of that year. So given the extension of the F1 season into December, that was unlikely thought through. There will be no opportunity within the FIA for further review once the ICA hands down their decision.

          3. I won’t apologise for calling a liar a liar. You said the fia does not recognise the CAS. The fia not only recognise the CAS, they use it regularly, it’s used against them regularly, and they turn up and follow the procedure, and they are so integrated with it, the fia’s anti doping committee advise and contribute to the CAS anti doping committee.

            Your a liar, I will never apologise for calling you one. I will delight in drawing attention to your lies regularly, exactly as I regularly draw attention to the fact that erikje has never posted on the comments section of this site while the red bull media centre has a power cut. Gfy.

          4. Will you stop lying. Are you so narcissistic that

            sunds like a reflection of you.. everything alright?
            You obviously confused several acronyms and do not know what they are about.
            No problem, we will enlighten you. ( of there is power that is ;)

    4. That’s not enough.
      We should involve NATO, UN, blues helmets, Kaio, grand Master Kaio, Goku, Superman and Batman.

    5. FIA Cannot govern themselves. They are the judge and the jury, it won’t work

      I didn’t expect the FIA to overturn their own controversial decision. That’s like saying to the whole world – yeah, Masi our Race DIrector screwed up. However, there is no fault here to RBR, Horner or Max. They pressured Masi but there’s surely nothing wrong with that? Anyone would probably do the same.

      The responsiblity is with Masi to make the right call. Now i know why some people do not deserve leadership positions!

  2. I don’t think the FIA are biased, but the stewards ruling sounded very much just like they were trying to cover the appalling race direction.

    This will end up going to a legal court as the FIA aren’t going to admit they’ve messed up and change the result unless they’re legally made to (if they’re made to).

    Some ‘legal experts’ have given their opinion that Mercedes have a case, and there’s not much else that the FIA and/or Red Bull can supply in defence, but I’d still be surprised if the outcome gets changed.

    I wanted Hamilton to win yesterday but I’m not sure it’ll feel satisfying now even if it was overturned.

    1. I think there might be a reasonably strong defence for not overturning the championship result. Merc’s argument is that if the rules were followed as they should have been, the race would have finished the safety car and therefore Lewis would definitely have won.

      But I’m not sure that is true. The original intention was to keep lapped cars in place and race for one lap. Had that have happened, Max might still have won (albeit a much slimmer chance). I think Merc would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that as soon as Masi told some cars to overtake, 48.12 was triggered and the safety car couldn’t come in for another lap. I think Red Bull could provide enough doubt to prevent that.

      What Merc could do though, is force the FIA and Liberty Media to change how they govern the sport and to put more emphasis on clear and consistent rule making/enforcement. That would be a decent win for F1.

      1. What Merc could do though, is force the FIA and Liberty Media to change how they govern the sport and to put more emphasis on clear and consistent rule making/enforcement.

        The only way to do that, in my opinion, is to appeal. Otherwise FIA will just sweep the whole thing under the rug. Even though appealing probably won’t change the outcome, the process would most likely show that Masi blatantly ignored the rules.

        I think Merc would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that as soon as Masi told some cars to overtake, 48.12 was triggered and the safety car couldn’t come in for another lap.

        I think this is pretty obvious. I don’t think the rules can reasonably be interpreted any other way – and they never have before. Whether the results can be changed afterwards when the race director decides to ignore the rules, is another thing.

        1. RandomMallard
          13th December 2021, 9:26

          @hotbottoms Hit the nail on the head with that final paragraph. The rules have clearly been broken. The question now is how, or even if, this can be rectified somehow. The stewards said they didn’t feel retrospectively shortening the race was the way to save this, and I agree with this because it opens too many other doors and rabbit holes, but I have a feeling that if it gets up to somewhere like the Court of Arbitration for Sport we could see some other outcome.

          1. Agreed – though the “how to resolve things” question bears further conversation. Mercedes suggested keep the lap 57 positions which as you note was rejected on the grounds that it arbitrarily shortened the race. Perhaps they should have phrased it as “since the safety car should have been out until the end of lap 58 and no overtaking should have been permitted, keep the lap 57 positions through to the end of the race. No elegant ways around this; what Masi did was a catastrophic mess that neither team deserved. I do suspect that he was getting instructions from his sales/marketing bosses to finish under green “at any cost”; now we get to see just how high the cost was.

        2. I agree, I want to see an appeal for that very reason. Those in charge won’t change their ways unless an external body shows their incompetence and highlights the need for change.

      2. RandomMallard
        13th December 2021, 9:22

        @simon999 This is very important. “Reversing the decision” would have led to those 5 cars staying in place, but Merc cannot then just claim that this would 100% mean Hamilton would have won, because there are too many variables at play for that to stand up to legal standards.

        Definitely agree about the need to fix this in the future. I think over the next couple of years (it’ll be difficult to do immediately) the FIA need to completely re-write the sporting regulations, firstly to update them to more modern standards, but also to remove all the contradictions in them (such as the SC procedure, and then saying the Race Director has overriding authority over the SC). These have come about, I expect, after many years of bodging new rules in to fix other problems, without fully assessing their wider impact. Maybe every few (maybe 5?) years they should have a proper assessment of the regulations, completely rewriting them to solve any potential problems introduced by rule changes in that period.

        @callmeacynic 100% agree. I don’t think there’s corruption involved, but simply the FIA not wanting to acknowledge they’re wrong.

        I don’t think either side can be truly satisfied with this, no matter the outcome.

        1. I would also imagine Hamilton won’t want to be given an 8th title this way, even if he would likely have won were it not for Masi’s actions. He could never know for sure he’d have won if they’d have raced for one lap with lapped cars in the way, and overturning the winner would inevitably turn a large group of F1 fans against him.

          Hopefully it fires him up for next season. New cars. New team-mate. New era to make his mark on before retiring.

        2. @simon999 I think the case will hinge on whether, legally, the safety car should have come in at the end of the following lap, as per the regulations.

          I don’t think Mercedes have asserted that the lapped cars should have stayed in position for the final racing lap, they’re making a case that the safety car then returned to the pits a lap too soon.

          If that is found to be the case, it’s much easier to argue that track positions would have been maintained.

        3. Just my (one-off) 2 cents/pennies as a ‘legal expert’, F1 fan, and fierce opponent of the current SC and Red Flag rules.

          Some ‘legal experts’ have given their opinion that Mercedes have a case, and there’s not much else that the FIA and/or Red Bull can supply in defence, but I’d still be surprised if the outcome gets changed.

          This ‘legal expert’ says Mercedes has ‘no case’. Mercedes did not have a lapped car, and thus was not impacted by ‘any/all lapped cars may overtake’ instruction (19.12). Only the competitors of the ‘lapped cars’ can appeal the botched execution of this rule (maybe Mercedes can ask McLaren to protest; but I guess that is too late).
          Only 19.13 applies to Mercedes, and that rules was executed in line with the way it is written as it only determines the ‘clerk of the course to decide’ without referring to any pre-requisite.

          And if Appeals/CAS/EU/God review this and determine that there was inconsistent application between the various rules, they can only nullify the race in its totality. Only the Race Director (or if protested, the Stewards) can shorten a race and call it as the final result!
          I doubt they will rerun it, thus it will only change the statistics as far as wins and points scored, and add a weird equal points finish in the WDC

          I am fiercely opposed to the ways the rules for SC (resetting gaps) and Red Flags (re-tyre, repair damage, etc) are written and executed.
          Masi should have called a Red Flag immediately, if he really wanted to ‘have a car race’. There were enough laps for an exciting finish.
          But under my ideal Red Flag and SC rules there would be no resetting of gaps let alone new tyres. This of course would mean that Hamilton would have won Abu Dhabi (deservedly). And he would have reduced his gap to Verstappen earlier in the season as Spa should never have been awarded a points-giving race status.
          It would not change the WDC though as Imola was as much a travesty of these rules as the other instances were. And as much as the WDC is supposed to be the best driver/car combination, it seems quite fitting that Verstappen won this season as he was overall the superior driver (and Mercedes the superior team).

          PS Racefans hasn’t really improved yet in the way they reported on this event. Headlines and quotes are purely picked to get as many clicks and set up the extreme responses.
          And I’m off again :P

          1. edit: Of course those references should be ‘39.12’ and ‘39.13’.

            PPS Red Bull is not even part in this protest (they were in the other one).

          2. What if they found to be fixing the race?

            What about Mercedes even though didn’t have lapped cars that effected, they argue that their competitor is treated to an unfair starting position that he gained massively.

            And you say they can’t argue lapped cars, I disagree that they can because decision is made incorrectly and sc sent away improperly hence the result gave a massive advantage to competitor.
            The race at the point in time would finish under SC, because there was not enough time to let cars and have safe distance to send sc away at the same time, also the rule says sc would retire following lapped cars.

            In all likely scenerios, only red flag and no lapped cars allowed would give the slightest chance for redbul to win and that is a big if. This is purely race fixing level of decision.

            Ham could easily start differently had he been given enough notice of the decision of lapped cars and unheard of sc retiring at the same time. If we consider “ifs” to ve determination factor.

            Race director directly involved in the race altering decision incorrectly following rules or not following the rules at all.

            I m not so sure about the assessment of they can’t complain directly for the lapped car decision, if it directly effected the starting positions of the race which otherwise would make it either very difficult or impossible for max to be in the position he ended up being.

            I wouldn’t discount the race result can be changed argument.

          3. And if Appeals/CAS/EU/God review this and determine that there was inconsistent application between the various rules, they can only nullify the race in its totality. Only the Race Director (or if protested, the Stewards) can shorten a race and call it as the final result!

            Presumably the appellate body (whoever they are) could, in theory, annul the stewards’ decision to dismiss Mercedes’ protest – since it is that document which is being appealed – and remit the matter back to the stewards to decide how to proceed, based on the court’s interpretation of the regulations. However, in practice I think the chance of any of this happening is low.

        4. And if Appeals/CAS/EU/God review this and determine that there was inconsistent application between the various rules, they can only nullify the race in its totality. Only the Race Director (or if protested, the Stewards) can shorten a race and call it as the final result!

          That is completely incorrect.

          10.10.1 The ICA has all the decision-making powers of the authority that took the contested decision.
          10.10.2 In addition, the ICA may admit or dismiss the appeal, in whole or in part, and may decide to confirm, waive, mitigate or increase the penalty inflicted. It may annul or amend the results of a competition, but it is not empowered to order any competition to be re-run.

          1. Thanks for that. I was clearly wrong assuming what ICA can do.
            Next you tell me God has even more powers ;)

            This doesn’t take away that Mercedes, as a non-lapped car, was not (directly) part of the incorrect/incomplete execution of rule 39.12, and from a legal point of view their claim should be inadmissible.

      3. @simon999 again i disagree with “if they restarted with lapped cars in place max would still win” line .
        Thats completely false, do you forget that under the restart Lewis was in 1st controlling the pack and with lapped cars acting as a buffer between him and max he could sprint early to start the last lap knowing that max cannot overtake ANY car until he crosses the line, this would create a big enough gap for Lewis to be safe even on ancient hards.

        THIS is the main reason why race control ordered ONLY the buffer cars out of the way because they knew Lewis was safe barring a lockup or “act of god” so invented new rules to artificially place Max behind Lewis to give him the best chance of winning.
        This will be one of the key arguments Mercedes will be litigating in court, race stewards knew every other standard scenario would result in a Lewis win so they created a new one just for max(I say just for max because no one else especially carlos sainz in 3rd who was behind traffic did not get the same treatment) to have a high probability of winning.

        Looks like a solid case for Mercedes . The biggest problem is how the FIA are going to spin and crisis manage this disaster if the WDC gets handed to Lewis?

    2. 50% of lawyers in every case are right and 50% are wrong so ……………………………………..

  3. RocketTankski
    13th December 2021, 8:48

    Netflix could make this into a spin-off series: Better Call Brawn.
    Watch your favourite F1 managers, lawyers and spin doctors battle to win through a series of shady deals and slanderous TV spots.

  4. F1 is a sport and a show at the same time, always has been. This is not the first “drama”, far from it.

    Any decent court should just dismiss the case and tell teams and whole F1 organisation to settle it between themselves. Silly rich companies and rich drivers arguing who is faster, come on.

    F1 is, just like any other “sport” is just a show, a business, a product we watch to pass some time, have fun, and in case of F1 witness some amazing feats of engineering. Every sport has it’s version of a referee and they are the facto the law maker during the game and ruleset is basically just a “guidebook”. Let’s not pretend similar things don’t happen in other sports.

    1. A comparable situation in soccer would be that a referee decided to completely ignore the rule book and award a penalty kick at the last minute of the game, even though the ball is at midfield. Would the result of the game be changed afterwards, if the penalty kick decided the game? I’m not sure, but I’m certain that the referee would never referee another game after that and it would be a huge scandal.

      1. And that what he’s done is ok because there’s another rule that says the referee has overall final say even if in contradiction to the other written rules!

        1. RandomMallard
          13th December 2021, 9:39

          @oweng Thing is in football, that is 100% the rule. The referee’s decision is final on the pitch. There can then be debates, claims, lawsuits etc off the pitch but on the pitch the referee has the final say on any decision

          1. Exactly this.

        2. There is no rule in F1 that states that. There is a rule which states that the Race Director has full authority to override the Clerk’s safety car decisions, and some people saw “The race director has full authority” and went all sov cit on us, deciding that it meant he can ignore any rule he wants. He can’t.

          1. read 15.3 again ( probably the first time) and ask a adult to help you interpret it.

      2. RandomMallard
        13th December 2021, 9:37

        @hotbottoms To extend that analogy though, I think it would be difficult to rule on because the team who had the penalty awarded against them probably wouldn’t be able to prove that they wouldn’t have conceded a goal anyway in the final few seconds, i.e. there are likely too many variables to rule in the plaintiff’s/claimant’s favour.

        Obviously in football the likely decision would be to see the match replayed but the sheer logistics of F1 make this nearly impossible.

        One lap shootout in a Haas to decide the championship anyone?

        1. One lap shootout in a Haas to decide the championship anyone?

          That would be garish, artificial and baseless… in a word: PERFECT for Liberty Media! You should pitch them the idea, they wouldn’t think twice about it!

          P.S: the only thing I would add to this incredible idea is: make the venue a dirt track.

      3. @hotbottoms yes, football referee can do exactly this and it would be legal for whatever reason referee has. Also, referees can make mistakes in making quick decisions and this is also legal- competitors can just “deal with it”.

        But I think your analogy is a bit of a stretch. More fair analogy would be a questionable free kick from 25 meters in the 95th minute of the match that scores and wins the world cup. Dramatic and questionable yes, perhaps it was a mistake, but is it something some EU or UK court should be dealing with? I don’t think so.

        This is sport/show, you win some and lose some. In case of Mercedes and Hamilton- they won most of the time and lost rarely because they have been superior for the most of the last 8 or so years and no referee could infulence different result for most of their winning seasons.

        1. @schmi
          I think my analogy is much more accurate. The procedure for the SC is stated in the rules and Masi took the SC out too early. In the same way, a penalty kick should never be awarded if the ball and the players are at the midfield. It’s not that Masi misinterpreted the rules or the situation, but he ignored the rules altogether.

          I don’t necessarily think that the results in either of these situations should be changed. But I don’t think such blatant ignoring of the rules would go without consequences to the referee in other sports and neither should it go without consequences in Formula One. If Masi resigns or is fired, then I’m content even though I think that Hamilton should’ve won the race.

        2. I have seen a game replayed before because a team field