Verstappen wins 2021 F1 world championship
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has indicated that the team could consider challenging Max Verstappen’s 2021 title triumph over Lewis Hamilton if Felipe Massa is successful in his legal challenge. The Red Bull star clinched his first Drivers’ World Championship in controversial circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after a ‘human error’ from FIA race director Michael Masi, but Wolff hinted they could fight to get the result overturned nearly two years later.
Hamilton is currently facing uncertainty over his maiden title after former F1 driver Massa opened legal proceedings to alter the 2008 world championship result. The ex-Ferrari racer lost out to the Briton by one point but he is now hoping to get his day in court, following a claim from former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone that senior officials knew about Renault’s ‘Crashgate’ scandal and did not act on it for a year.
And Mercedes chief Wolff has revealed the team are watching on with intrigue to see if Massa is successful to weigh up whether a similar appeal for Hamilton’s would be worth pursuing.
“It is interesting to follow. It is not something that anybody saw coming because the rules are pretty clear in F1,” Wolff said in Singapore. “But it will set a precedent — whatever it is — and we’re looking from the sidelines with curiosity.”
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That race impacted the result of the championship because Nelson Piquet’s deliberate crash brought out the safety car and allowed Fernando Alonso to win the Singapore Grand Prix that season. Massa, meanwhile, came home in 13th after a pressurised pit stop led to mistakes from the driver and Ferrari, including leaving the pits with the fuel hose still attached to his car.
He earned a penalty for an unsafe release which left him outside the points. And now Massa – represented by a London-based law firm – wants the race result erased from the championship due to its apparent illegality.
Hamilton’s case is somewhat different as the seven-time world champion was left to rue Masi’s interpretation of the rules in relation to the safety car on the final lap of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which allowed Verstappen to pass Hamilton on the final lap on much fresher tyres when the race should have finished under the safety car.
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Mercedes initially threatened legal action by taking the case to court before deciding to withdraw after receiving an apology from the FIA. They later admitted ‘human error’ from Masi was to blame and the Australian was removed from his role, but it was too late to overturn the result and Verstappen was able to celebrate his first success.
The 25-year-old has since enjoyed total domination of F1, winning 27 out of the 36 races after the controversy in the Abu Dhabi desert. Meanwhile, Hamilton is on a 37-race streak without a win – his longest by some margin in his career.
And given Red Bull’s current advantage over the rest of the grid, there are some doubts as to whether the British icon will ever clinch an unprecedented eighth Drivers’ Championship title. But Wolff’s comments have opened the door to a potential legal challenge if Massa’s case sets precedent.
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