The aftermath of the controversial finish was immediate and will continue for the foreseeable future. The race concluded with a one-lap shootout created by FIA Race Director Michael Masi through drastic measures in quickening a safety car restart. Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team filed two protests against the final classification of the race and Max Verstappen. The race stewards dismissed both protests.
One protest of the race result is directly in regards to the final safety car restart. The team alleges a breach of Article 48.12 of the 2021 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.
If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message “LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE” has been sent to all Competitors via the official messaging system, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car.
This will only apply to cars that were lapped at the time they crossed the Line at the end of the lap during which they crossed the first Safety Car line for the second time after the safety car was deployed.
Having overtaken the cars on the lead lap and the safety car these cars should then proceed around the track at an appropriate speed, without overtaking, and make every effort to take up position at the back of the line of cars behind the safety car. Whilst they are overtaking, and in order to ensure this may be carried out safely, the cars on the lead lap must always stay on the racing line unless deviating from it is unavoidable. Unless the clerk of the course considers the presence of the safety car is still necessary, once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap.
If the clerk of the course considers track conditions are unsuitable for overtaking the message “OVERTAKING WILL NOT BE PERMITTED” will be sent to all Competitors via the official messaging system.
The critical sections of this regulation are that all lapped cars must overtake the safety car if instructed to do so and that the safety car will return to the pits on the lap after the final lapped car overtakes the safety car. The lapped cars were signaled by race control to overtake, and only the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen could do so. Also, the race was resumed by Michael Masi on the same lap.
The race stewards dismissed this protest cities Article 15.3 of the FIA F1 Sporting Regulations, which states the FIA Race Director has “overriding authority” to give orders in any session. It basically says that Michael Masi is a god-king over the course of a grand prix weekend. In the decision document, Michael Masi stated “that it had long been agreed by all the Teams that where possible it was highly desirable for the race to end in a “green” condition.”
The other protest against Max Verstappen is about his driving just before the final restart. The team alleges a breach of Article 48.8 of the 2021 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.
With the exception of the cases listed under a) to h) below, no driver may overtake another car on the track, including the safety car, until he passes the Line (see Article 5.3) for the first time after the safety car has returned to the pits.
The exceptions are:
a) If a driver is signalled to do so from the safety car.
b) Under Articles 41.1c), 48.12, 51.6 and 51.12 below.
c) When entering the pits a driver may pass another car remaining on the track, including the safety car, after he has reached the first safety car line.
d) When leaving the pits a driver may overtake, or be overtaken by, another car on the track before he reaches the second safety car line.
e) When the safety car is returning to the pits it may be overtaken by cars on the track once it has reached the first safety car line.
f) Whilst in the pit entry, pit lane or pit exit a driver may overtake another car which is also in one of these three areas.
g) Any car stopping in its designated garage area whilst the safety car is using the pit lane (see Article 48.11 below) may be overtaken.
h) If any car slows with an obvious problem.
In this case, the protest claims that Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton during the safety car period. The race stewards dismissed this protest as well. While Verstappen briefly overtook Hamilton behind the safety car, he was behind the Mercedes driver when the safety car period ended.
Mercedes have intents to appeal the decision. The FIA International Court of Appeal will adjudicate the appeal. If the appeal is dismissed, Mercedes can take its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the supreme court for all international sport.
It is improbable that the FIA would invalidate the decision of the F1 Race Director, but CAS is independent of the FIA. The idea that the FIA gave Michael Masi the right to circumvent regulations on the penultimate lap of the entire season and effectively decide the world championship is an absolute joke