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.”

Supercross: Haiden Deegan debuts in 250s at Houston, Justin Cooper graduates to 450 class for Star Yamaha

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Rising star Haiden Deegan will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut in Houston, Texas with Yamaha Star Racing while the 2021 250 West champion Justin Cooper graduates to 450s.

Deegan, the son of motocross and off-road legend Brian Deegan and brother of NASCAR Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan, made two starts in the Pro Motocross outdoors season last year. He finished 31st overall at the Ironman Nationals in Crawfordsville, Indiana and was 13th at Fox Raceway in the season-ender at Fox Raceway in Pala, California, but the overall results did not necessarily reflect how well he ran. In both events, he challenged for top-10s during portions of the week and actually finished 10th in one of the Pala motos.

Last week, Haiden finished fifth in the Supercross 250 Futures in Anaheim 2.

“We’re really excited to get the season on the East Coast started,” said Monster Energy Team Manager Jensen Hendler in a press release. “It’s also exciting to have Haiden move up to join our pro program this season and to have Justin make his debut on the 450. The guys have been working hard and are looking forward to seeing what they can do this weekend in Houston.”

After scoring a 250SX Futures podium, Talon Hawkins gets 250 East ride.

Deegan will join Nate Thrasher and Jordon Smith in the 250 East division this week.

Cooper moves into the 450 class this weekend. According to Supercross rules, after winning the 2021 championship, he had one season to defend his title and then would be required to move up a class. Cooper missed all of last year to injury.

Cooper was healthy when the outdoor season started and he earned five podiums and nine top-fives in 12 rounds. Three of these races ended in runners-up finishes, at Hangtown, in Rancho Cordova, California, Washougal, Washington and Unadilla, New York.

Cooper joins Eli Tomac and Dylan Ferrandis in the 450 class and will race select events.

Justin Cooper learned to temper aggression with speed

Cooper’s Houston attempt will be the first of an undisclosed number of races he will compete in during the 2023 season.

“It’s been about two years since I’ve lined up for a supercross, and now it’s in a new class with the best guys, so I’m excited to just get out there,” Cooper said. “I’m looking to get back under the lights and learn what I can. Overall, I’m just really excited to be in the position to be out there, so I’m going to make the most of it and enjoy it!”

Deegan and Cooper will be part of a seven-rider Supercross lineup for Yamaha Star Racing. Nick Romano will debut in the 250 East division later this year.