Mercedes withdrawing its appeal of protesting officiating calls in Formula 1 season finale

Mercedes withdrawing appeal
Cristiano Barni ATPImages/Getty Images
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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Mercedes ended the dispute over the Formula One season finale Thursday by withdrawing its appeal of the controversial finish that cost Lewis Hamilton a record eighth championship.

Mercedes had filed a pair of protests following Sunday’s race, in which a late crash at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix helped Max Verstappen beat Hamilton for the title. Both protests were dismissed and Mercedes then asked for reconsideration at the International Court of Appeal, a process that could have dragged into next year.

“We left Abu Dhabi in disbelief of what we had just witnessed,” Mercedes said in a statement. “Of course, it’s part of the game to lose a race, but it’s something different when you lose faith in racing.”

Mercedes was protesting the use of the safety car following a crash with five laps remaining. Hamilton had a nearly 12-second lead with Verstappen in second when the crash brought out the yellow flag.

Verstappen pitted for fresh tires while Hamilton stayed on track. The race director initially said lapped drivers could not pass the safety car, then reversed the call in a decision that returned Verstappen to second when the race resumed with a lap remaining.

Verstappen then passed Hamilton to win his first world championship; Hamilton was denied a record eighth title, one more than Michael Schumacher.

Mercedes said Thursday, ahead of the season-ending gala in Paris later in the evening, that it decided with Hamilton not to move forward with the appeal.

Its protest was over safety car rules that “were applied in a new way that affected the race result, after Lewis had been in a commanding lead and on course to win (the championship)” and Mercedes said its appeal was “in the interest of sporting fairness.”

Mercedes said it was satisfied after discussions with both the FIA and Formula One over clarity on the rules “so that all competitors know the rules under which they are racing, and how they will be enforced.”

The FIA late Wednesday said it will conduct an analysis of the ending and acknowledged the controversy is “tarnishing the image of the championship.” The FIA delivered a report on the incident to the World Motor Sport Council in Paris and said a further review will help understand why the race ended as it did.

“We welcome the decision by the FIA to install a commission to thoroughly analyze what happened in Abu Dhabi and to improve the robustness of rules, governance and decision making in Formula 1. We also welcome that they have invited the teams and drivers to take part,” Mercedes said.

Mercedes also congratulated Verstappen and Red Bull, and called the 24-year-old Dutchman a “flawless sportsman on and off the track” who “delivered a faultless performance.”

“We would like to express our sincere respect for your achievements this season,” Mercedes said. “You made this Formula 1 championship title fight truly epic. Max, we congratulate you and your entire team. We look forward to taking the fight to you on the track next season.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner on Wednesday had called for the controversy to end. He also said a number of variables out of Red Bull’s control came into play that decided the race, beginning with Nicholas Latifi’s crash with five laps remaining.

“We didn’t ask Nicholas Latifi to crash, that happens,” Horner said. “And we found it surprising that Mercedes strategically, you know, they left Lewis out on a set of tires that had to have been close to 40 laps on them. So of course, if the race were to restart, he was going to be vulnerable.

“Strategically, that was a mistake. I think we made the right strategy call, and as the following car on a track that isn’t easy to overtake, Max still had to make that pass. And he did it,” Horner said. “A safety car caused by Williams gave us an opportunity to throw something strategically at those last five laps and it paid off.”

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”