Lewis Hamilton given fresh hope as a second lawyer weighs in on Max Verstappen controversy
Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out
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Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of overturning Max Verstappen’s maiden F1 world title have been given a fresh boost after another lawyer claimed that Mercedes could have legal grounds to change the outcome of Sunday’s race in Abu Dhabi. FIA race director Michael Masi caused outrage from the Mercedes camp due to a contentious decision in the race’s dying embers.
Hamilton looked to be cruising towards his eighth Drivers’ title on Sunday, with Red Bull and Verstappen unable to respond to Mercedes’ pace.
The Dutchman was handed a major stroke of luck, however, when Nicholas Latifi’s crash brought out the safety car in the closing stages.
The safety car retreated with one lap remaining, and Verstappen was suddenly dealt another miracle when the hoard of lapped cars between himself and Hamilton were ordered out of the way to enable a straight shootout.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was infuriated as Hamilton’s healthy lead was suddenly wiped out, and the 24-year-old, on brand new soft-compound tyres, passed Hamilton to clinch the title in thrilling fashion.
The Silver Arrows made two protests following the race, but they were promptly rejected by the FIA.
Amid Mercedes’ pledge to lodge an official appeal and take matters further, law partner Duncan Bagshaw claimed that Wolff and Co have a case.
And the Hamilton camp have been given another boost, with sports law specialist Nicholas Bamber backing Bagshaw’s belief in an interview with racefans.com.
“In response to Mercedes’ protest, they [the FIA] concluded that article 15.3 gives the race director carte blanche to control the use of the safety car and overrides the procedure for the safety car stipulated at Article 48.12,” he said.
“This interpretation seems – on its face – to be inconsistent with a plain language view of the regulations.
“It also directly contradicts Michael Masi’s approach in similar circumstances at the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix where he stated ‘There is a requirement in the sporting regulations to wave all the lapped cars past’ before the safety car returns to the pit lane and the race recommences, ‘therefore the safety car period was a bit longer than what we would have normally wanted’.
“I.e. the race director cannot overrule the appropriate application of the regulations, including the full application of article 48.12.”
Hamilton fans, incensed by the nature of Verstappen’s victory, have taken it upon themselves to start a petition in an attempt to see the result overturned.
While things seem to be adding up in Mercedes’ favour, Sky Sports’ David Croft has backed Hamilton’s team to ‘back off’ so as not to damage the reputation of the sport.
Furthermore, accepting the result would avoid the possible perception of being ‘bad losers’, as well as taking the gloss off their eighth consecutive Constructors’ crown.
Verstappen confirmed that Wolff has already sent him a message of congratulations, although Mercedes’ decision to appeal or withdraw is still officially up in the air.
The Silver Arrows are now well into their 96-hour window to take matters further before the Dutchman’s maiden title is rubber-stamped for the history books.
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