Stewards deny Mercedes request for 'Right of Review' over Verstappen-Hamilton clash in Brazil
The FIA have denied Mercedes' request for a Right of Review into the defensive manoeuvre Max Verstappen used to retain the lead from Lewis Hamilton on Lap 48 of last week's Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Verstappen and Hamilton both ran wide at Turn 4 at Interlagos as the Dutchman stayed ahead. The move was noted by the Race Director, but the stewards decided at the time that no investigation was necessary. Hamilton later overtook Verstappen to win the race.
But on Tuesday Mercedes announced they were seeking a Right of Review of that decision not to investigate Verstappen's actions, based on what they said was new evidence available. That petition for a review was submitted after the onboard camera footage from Verstappen's car was made public for the first time.
The stewards heard from representatives from Mercedes and Red Bull on Thursday in Qatar, then deliberated overnight, before reaching a decision on Friday after first practice for this weekend's Grand Prix.
Their denial of Mercedes' request means Verstappen is not at risk of any kind of retrospective penalty and the full race result from Brazil stands.
Why have the stewards made this decision?
After announcing their decision the stewards explained: "There will always be some angles of video footage, because of limits in both technology and bandwidth, that are unavailable at the time.
"Whether or not stewards' decisions are considered to be right or wrong, and just as with referees’ decisions in soccer, it does not seem desirable to be able to review any or all such in‐race discretionary decisions up to two weeks after the fact and the stewards therefore seriously doubt that the intent of the Right of Review in the ISC [International Sporting Code] is to enable competitors to seek a review of such discretionary decisions that do not follow on from a formal inquiry by the stewards and do not result in a published document."
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Although the stewards agreed the onboard camera footage was technically new and relevant evidence, they disagreed that it was "significant" in this case.
Their statement said: "The stewards often must make a decision quickly and on a limited set of information. At the time of the decision, the stewards felt they had sufficient information to make a decision, which subsequently broadly aligned with the immediate post‐race comments of both drivers involved.
"Had they felt that the forward‐facing camera video from Car 33 [Verstappen] was crucial in order to take a decision, they would simply have placed the incident under investigation – to be investigated after the race – and rendered a decision after this video was available. They saw no need to do so."
Mercedes argued that there was precedent for a change in decision based on new video evidence, after Lewis Hamilton was hit with a grid penalty for the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix when new video footage showed he would have seen a yellow flag which he failed to slow for. But the stewards rejected that comparison.
"The stewards determine that the footage shows nothing exceptional that is particularly different from the other angles that were available to them at the time, or that particularly changes their decision that was based on the originally available footage," they said.
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"Unlike the 2020 Austria case, in the judgement of the stewards, there is nothing in the footage that fundamentally changes the facts. Nor even, does this show anything that wasn’t considered by the stewards at the time. Thus, the stewards determine that the footage, here, is not 'significant'."
The verdict was made public as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner were in an official pre-race press conference. Wolff said he was not surprised by the decision.
"Completely expected," he said. "I think we wanted to trigger a discussion around it, because probably it will be a theme in the next few races. I think our objective is achieved; we didn't really think it would go any further."
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Horner added: "I think it's obviously the right decision, because it would have opened Pandora's Box regarding a whole bunch of other incidents that happened in that race. I think the most important thing now is to focus on this Grand Prix.
"It's great to be here in Qatar, I think it's going to be a good circuit and we want a good, clean, fair fight, not just here but in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi."