Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff has revealed that the team’s brief protest over Max Verstappen’s second-place finish in the Japanese Grand Prix was the result of a “miscommunication”.
Mercedes contacted the FIA following the race at Suzuka on October 9 to lodge a protest against Verstappen, believing his on-track defence from Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps to have breached the sporting regulations.
Verstappen finished less than a second clear at the checkered flag, meaning a time penalty would gain Hamilton a position and three extra points in his bid for the drivers’ championship.
The FIA stewards informed Mercedes that a decision could not be made at Suzuka as both Hamilton and Verstappen had already left the track, postponing a hearing to the United States Grand Prix weekend in Austin.
Mercedes withdrew its protest not long after, making the result of the race official and leaving Verstappen in second place with Hamilton third.
Ahead of this weekend’s race in Austin, Wolff explained what caused the mix-up over the protest, saying that Mercedes had to make a split decision before leaving Japan.
“It was a miscommunication,” Wolff said.
“When we left the circuit, I said that the Verstappen manoeuvre was a hard manoeuvre but probably what we want to see in Formula 1. He’s refreshing and I think that the drivers need to sort that out among themselves on track.
“And we decided not to step in and then it was an unfortunate coincidence that we took off, we left. The team had a minute to decide whether to protest or not and that’s what they did.
“Once we were able to communicate again, which was 30 minutes after take-off, we decided to withdraw the protest.”
Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.
The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).
It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).
Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.
The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.
“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”
“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”