F1 race Stewards rebuff Mercedes

The FIA have denied Mercedes’ request for a Right of Review into the defensive maneuver Max Verstappen used to retain the lead from Lewis Hamilton on Lap 48 of last week’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

The stewards heard from representatives from Mercedes and Red Bull on Thursday in Qatar, then deliberated overnight, before reaching a decision on Friday after first practice for this weekend’s Grand Prix.

Their denial of Mercedes’ request means Verstappen is not at risk of any kind of retrospective penalty and the full race result from Brazil stands.

After announcing their decision the stewards explained: “There will always be some angles of video footage, because of limits in both technology and bandwidth, that are unavailable at the time.

“Whether or not stewards’ decisions are considered to be right or wrong, and just as with referees’ decisions in soccer, it does not seem desirable to be able to review any or all such in‐race discretionary decisions up to two weeks after the fact and the stewards therefore seriously doubt that the intent of the Right of Review in the ISC [International Sporting Code] is to enable competitors to seek a review of such discretionary decisions that do not follow on from a formal inquiry by the stewards and do not result in a published document.”

Although the stewards agreed the onboard camera footage was technically new and relevant evidence, they disagreed that it was “significant” in this case.

Their statement said: “The stewards often must make a decision quickly and on a limited set of information. At the time of the decision, the stewards felt they had sufficient information to make a decision, which subsequently broadly aligned with the immediate post‐race comments of both drivers involved.

“Had they felt that the forward‐facing camera video from Car 33 Verstappen was crucial in order to take a decision, they would simply have placed the incident under investigation – to be investigated after the race – and rendered a decision after this video was available. They saw no need to do so.”

“The stewards determine that the footage shows nothing exceptional that is particularly different from the other angles that were available to them at the time, or that particularly changes their decision that was based on the originally available footage,” they said.

“Unlike the 2020 Austria case, in the judgement of the stewards, there is nothing in the footage that fundamentally changes the facts. Nor even, does this show anything that wasn’t considered by the stewards at the time. Thus, the stewards determine that the footage, here, is not ‘significant’.”

The verdict was made public as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner were in an official pre-race press conference. Wolff said he was not surprised by the decision.

“Completely expected,” he said. “I think we wanted to trigger a discussion around it, because probably it will be a theme in the next few races. I think our objective is achieved; we didn’t really think it would go any further.”

Horner added: “I think it’s obviously the right decision because it would have opened Pandora’s Box regarding a whole bunch of other incidents that happened in that race. I think the most important thing now is to focus on this Grand Prix.

“It’s great to be here in Qatar, I think it’s going to be a good circuit and we want a good, clean, fair fight, not just here but in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi.”