Formula 1

Mercedes feels legal win was ‘almost guaranteed’ outside ICA

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said dropping the planned appeal over the Formula 1 title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was “tremendously hard” because he felt “almost guaranteed” to have won a legal case but felt the FIA International Court of Appeal would’ve been a case of F1’s governing body “marking its own homework”.

Dec 16 : Why Mercedes dropped its appeal

Though Mercedes has stepped away from appealing the rejection of its protest against the Abu Dhabi result that made Red Bull’s Max Verstappen the 2021 F1 world champion, it said it is only doing so because the FIA has set up a commission process to examine the contentious handling of the late safety car period and restart that allowed Verstappen to pounce on Hamilton for the win and title.

“We expect the commission to not only come up with words but actually good actions and we will hold them accountable for the actions because we cannot continue in a sport that is meant to be sport followed by entertainment and not the other way around,” said Wolff.

“We are held ransom by ad hoc decisions, in every field – technical, sport – and therefore there needs to be clear measures in place for the start of the season so every driver, every team and the fans understand what’s on and what is not on.”

Mercedes F1 Abu Dhabi

Asked by The Race how close Mercedes came to committing to the appeal, Wolff replied: “We believe we had a very strong case and if you look at it from the legal side, if it would have been judged in a regular court, it was almost guaranteed that we would have won.

“The problem with the ICA is the way it’s structured. The FIA can’t really mark their own homework and there is a difference between being right and obtaining justice.

“So there is there is a lesson to be learned: how can we ensure that, going forward, in situations like that the right decisions are being taken?”

Despite his confidence in the validity of Mercedes’ case, Wolff does not believe winning the appeal would’ve meant a change in the championship outcome – suggesting that option does not exist within the FIA’s governance framework.

Wolff insisted that neither Hamilton nor Mercedes “want to win a world championship in the courtroom” but added “on the other side we were deeply wronged on Sunday”.

“And it wasn’t just a case of a bad call,” he continued. “It was freestyle reading of the rules and it left Lewis like a sitting duck”.

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Max Verstappen Red Bull F1

“It was tremendously hard for him and for us as a team to withdraw the appeal because we were wronged.

“And we deeply believe in that, in Formula 1, the pinnacle of motor racing, one of the most important sports in the world, justice is being done.

“My soul and my heart prize with every bone that this should have been judged in the right way and a legal situation would have given us right.

“But as I said, there’s a difference between between being right and obtaining justice.”

Wolff said he had “no interest” in a conversation with race director Michael Masi about his call to only let some of the lapped cars through before the Abu Dhabi restart and not to wait until the following lap as written in the rules.

Michael Masi FIA race director F1

The Abu Dhabi controversy followed a string of flashpoints over the handling of incidents between the championship rivals during the 2021 season.

“It is a wider problem because if you look at most of the controversies that have happened this year, it was about decisions – sporting decisions on the track, inconsistency, the execution of the regulations on track,” said Wolff.

“Wanting to drive hard and to have difference of opinion among the drivers and among the teams is in the nature of the game.

“But inconsistent decision-making leads to controversies, leads to polarisation and that was the grounds for many of the totally unnecessary controversies on the track.”

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