Horner: Mercedes F1 protest in Abu Dhabi GP felt "desperate"

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said the Mercedes decision to lodge protests after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix felt "desperate", in the wake of a controversial finish to the Formula 1 season.

Horner: Mercedes F1 protest in Abu Dhabi GP felt "desperate"

Max Verstappen clinched the F1 world championship title at the Yas Marina circuit after race director Michael Masi elected to restart the race with one lap to go following a brief safety car period triggered by a crash from WilliamsNicholas Latifi.

The Red Bull driver had been switched on to soft tyres for the final shootout lap, while Hamilton was powerless to resist him as he was on well-used hard tyres.

Mercedes protested the FIA’s call to restart the race with one lap to go, claiming that the regulations stipulated it could not begin again until after the following lap once backmarkers had been told to unlap themselves.

Following a lengthy stewards’ hearing, the FIA rejected Mercedes’ complaints – stating that Masi had the universal right to decide when the safety car came in, and claiming the regulations that stipulated the ‘following lap’ are overruled by other clauses.

Speaking in the wake of the FIA stewards’ decision, Horner welcomed the call – and made clear that his team had had no desire for the championship to end in the stewards’ room.

PLUS: How Perez's Hamilton defiance was vital to Verstappen's Abu Dhabi triumph

Asked if he understood why Mercedes lodged its complaints, Horner said: “It obviously felt a little bit desperate. But we didn't want it to finish in front of the stewards.

“They've been great competitors this year. And Lewis has been a phenomenal driver. It's had its moments, it has been tense. It's been tough. But we're just delighted with the outcome. And very proud of Max tonight. He has been phenomenal all year.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, celebrate with team members

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, celebrate with team members

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Horner said he had no doubts that Masi made the right call in trying to get the race running again, rather than it finishing behind the safety car.

“We never wanted to end up in front of the stewards,” he said. “There was obviously a lot of debate before the race but, as it turned out, it was obviously very different after the race.

“But we don't go racing with barristers, and so on. It was a shame that it ended up there, but the stewards made the right call.”

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Horner said that Masi had again shown a desire to follow the ‘let them race’ mantra in his decision to bring the safety car in before the final lap.

“We've talked about let them race,” added Horner. “You know, Niki Lauda was the guy that pushed hard for it. And we've always talked about not finishing races under safety cars.

“The race director, in difficult circumstances, made absolutely the right call today. And, you know, strategically we got it right.”

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