By Mark Mann-Bryans, Abu Dhabi
Christian Horner insists Red Bull will continue to fight any further appeals from Mercedes against Max Verstappen’s victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the Dutchman took the Formula One world championship with a thrilling last-lap overtake.
The Red Bull driver stormed past title rival Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of the season-ending race at the Yas Marina Circuit having benefited from a late safety car that bunched up the pack.
Hamilton appeared to be charging to glory, easily holding Verstappen at bay in the closing laps only for a crash for the Williams of Nicholas Latifi to change the course of events.
Confusion reigned as under-fire race director Michael Masi changed his mind to allow lapped cars to pass the safety car – meaning Verstappen had a clear run at Hamilton in the final lap and, on much faster tyres, made his move to claim a first F1 title.
Mercedes immediately launched two appeals against the result, one against Verstappen for allegedly overtaking under a safety car and a second claiming a breach of rules regarding race restarts following a safety car period.
Both were dismissed after the two teams spent hours in the stewards’ office, Verstappen able to toast his title over four hours after crossing the finish line – albeit with Mercedes opting to lodge an intention to appeal the call.
This is just unbelievable. I started racing with my dad many years ago. We dreamed of becoming a World Champion and now we are.
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) December 12, 2021
“If they appeal, they appeal,” said Horner.
“We’ll fight them in the appeal court and then in the legal court after that if they were to go that route.
“It (the appeal) obviously felt a little bit desperate but we didn’t want it to finish in front of the stewards.
“They have been great competitors this year and Lewis has been a phenomenal driver. It has had its moments, it has been tense, it has been tough.”
Verstappen opted to pit for fresh rubber following the deployment of the late safety car and earlier under a virtual safety car, while Hamilton made a solitary stop earlier in the race.
“At moments it felt like it was slipping away but finally a little bit of good fortune behind the safety car, a great strategy call we don’t understand why Mercedes didn’t take the same option. We made it work,” added Horner.
“We needed the intervention from the racing gods and thank you so much Nicholas Latifi. The safety car came at a crucial moment in the championship.
“It was an important strategy call.
“The other discussions are a distraction. Mercedes made a mistake by not pitting with the safety car.
— Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) December 12, 2021
“We made the right call, he made it work, we used it to our advantage, he made the pass, he’s the world champion.”
Hamilton acknowledged Verstappen in the small media interview he gave following the race and ahead of the appeals, also sharing an embrace with the man he battled for the championship against in 22 gruelling races this season.
“Congratulations to Max and his team. I think we did an amazing job this year,” he told Sky Sports.
The absolute class of the field
18 wins between them in 2021, and they battled until the very last lap of the season ⚔️
The Verstappen-Hamilton rivalry will always be remembered#AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 #F1 pic.twitter.com/BsCqbA5GXm
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 12, 2021
“Everyone back at the factory and here worked so hard in this most difficult of seasons.
“I’m so proud of them and so grateful to be part of the journey with them.
“We gave it everything this last part of the season, we never gave up.”