Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton both ran long after their turn. (0:29)
After the São Paulo Grand Prix, Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff compared his team’s race weekend to his face being beaten and kicked many times. He said he was “angry” that the FIA management’s decision had been detrimental to his team, and went on to say that from his perspective, “the time for diplomacy is over”.
Given the strength of his rhetoric, it is not surprising that Mercedes wrote to the FIA on Tuesday that it had requested a review of one of the most controversial events in the race. Wolfe once made the decision of the management committee not to investigate Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton almost collided on the 48th lap as "the tip of the iceberg" and "ridiculous."
But to understand how we got here, you need to go back to your first decision at Interlagos and against Mercedes on Friday afternoon.
In the qualifying session for Saturday's sprint, Hamilton took pole position with a 0.4 second advantage, but was disqualified because the drag reduction system (DRS) on his car failed the routine test. The flaps in the rear wing opened to reduce drag and increase the top speed, opening 0.2 mm more than the 85 mm allowed by the regulations. It is only on one side (right side when viewed from behind) and only appears when it is under pressure, but it fails in the black and white world of technical rules.
Mercedes believes that the malfunction was caused by damage to the wing, although mechanics were not allowed to inspect parts or try to repair the damage until after the race weekend to show that the wing was legal. In fact, managers have never doubted the legitimacy of Mercedes' anticipated design, and agreed that the most likely cause of expanded opening comes down to damage. But a failed test is a failed test no matter how it happened. When it was placed in front of the administrators, they had no choice but to apply the rules and disqualify the car.
On Friday night, things became more chaotic, because the last person to touch the wing before the test failed was Hamilton's champion opponent Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver stated that he is looking for different evidence of violations to explain Mercedes’ impressive straight-line speed at Interlagos, but his involvement means that the investigation must be postponed to Saturday morning in order to obtain Video clips and Verstappen can be summoned to the housekeeper's room. Verstappen was fined 50,000 euros for violating parc ferme regulations, but both the administrator and Mercedes believe that the failure of the DRS test has nothing to do with this. Shortly after the fine was issued to Verstappen, Hamilton was disqualified from the qualifying result due to the DRS test.
In Saturday’s sprint race, Hamilton returned from the last grid position to fifth place within 24 laps-a very impressive performance. Had it not been for five engine penalties, he could have been in the week. Ranked fifth in the Japanese Grand Prix, which dropped him to tenth. There is no dispute about Mercedes' engine penalty, and the team decided to take it after balancing its advantages with running the new engine in the last four races.
Starting from tenth, Hamilton fought back in the first half of the game to return to second place, and then chased Verstappen to take the lead. At the 4th turn of lap 48, he got the first obvious opportunity to overtake his champion opponent, but when Hamilton walked outside the Red Bull, Verstappen took an active defense and saw both cars. Drive into the decisive zone.
The event control department took note of this incident, but since F1 seldom adopted the "let them play" principle, the event administrator did not investigate this. The idea of "Let them play" has been around for several seasons, but it is still a vague concept, not written in the rules, and is often ignored by the actual rules in sports rules and international sports rules. For example, "Forcing another driver to leave the track" violates FIA International Sports Rules Chapter 4 Article 2 Appendix L, which has been used many times this year, especially in Austria where Lando Norris participated. At the Grand Prix, Sergio Perez left the road at Turn 4.
Despite the dramatic changes on lap 48, Hamilton managed to overtake Verstappen a few laps later to secure the lead. He continued to win the race, scoring 25 points and narrowing the gap between Verstappen in the drivers' standings to 14 points. But the drama did not end there.
After the checkered flag, there were rumors that Red Bull might protest against Mercedes' victory based on suspicion of the rear wing of the car, but team principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports "We will not protest in this race." The wording seems to open the door to another round of protests later in the championship, perhaps once Red Bull gets clarifications on certain issues from the FIA. Although Mercedes may be confident that it can withstand any protests about the legality of its cars, as the relationship between the teams reaches an all-time low, the prospect of protests remains unresolved for the last three games.
Then, just as Mercedes was preparing to line up to take pictures and open the champagne, the team manager Ron Meadows was called back to the butler's office to explain why Hamilton unfastened his seat belt after the checkered flag. The video clip clearly shows Hamilton unfastened With his shoulder straps, he waved to the crowd and grabbed a Brazilian flag. Hamilton's behavior did not have any defense at all, so the driver was financially punished on the grounds that he not only put himself in danger, but also set a bad example for young drivers in the junior group. Everything is fair, but when the butler called Meadows for the first time, there was a feeling of "what should I do now?" After going to the butler's office so many times on the weekend.
It is worth noting that as F1 arrived in Qatar for the next round, the aftermath of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix continued to be delayed. When more on-board footage of the 48th lap incident appeared on the Verstappen car on Tuesday, Mercedes asked for the right to review the decision not to investigate the Red Bull drivers. At the time of the incident, the administrators were unable to obtain the front camera angle of the Verstappen car, so it is entirely possible to change their views on whether investigations are needed and whether penalties should be imposed.
Verstappen vs. Hamilton in Brazil🇧🇷 The onboard footage we've been waiting for👀 pic.twitter.com/0BSoo1TH6T
The video itself shows that Verstappen was very optimistic when cornering, braking later than Hamilton, and unable to load the steering at an angle to bring him close to the apex or ensure that he stays on the track. But few people know what it feels like to have a wheel-to-wheel race in this situation, so judging whether he has done any wrongdoing may be attributed to the two former drivers of the Brazilian management committee, Vitantonio Liuzi and Roberto. Moreno.
Between 2005 and 2011, Liuzzi participated in 80 Grand Prix races, including Red Bull and its youth team Toro Rosso, after which he was eliminated by his driver plan. Moreno's experience is not recent. The last time he participated in F1 was in 1995. If Mercedes’ right to review is accepted, their expert opinion on whether Verstappen has actually tried to take the corner or intends to maintain his position by driving Hamilton off the track will be crucial to the result.
It is unclear what the results will be or when they will be announced, but as the season enters the final three rounds, the real danger is that one of the greatest championship battles in recent memory was decided behind closed doors in the butler's office rather than on track.
The technical regulations of Formula One racing are complex, but their implementation is quite simple. If you fail in one of the post-race car testing tests, your car will be reported to the administrator, who (assuming that the test has been performed correctly and the car is indeed unqualified) is obliged to cancel the contestant’s results.
Another recent example of a similar situation is Kimi Raikkonen's disqualification for the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Due to damage from the previous game, Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo failed the front wing deflection test and was excluded from the qualifying results in Baku. In that case, the team also had to change the wing specifications for the race, because it had run out of original specifications, causing the pit lane to start on Sunday.
However, there are also stories about cars failing the test due to damage and not being reported to the administrator. These are more difficult to verify because they have never reached the stage of official document distribution. However, according to some sources, parts that are easily damaged by curbs, such as the front floor of the car, fail the deflection test due to damage, and only need to replace the parts without fines.
It is not uncommon for teams to repair cars on race weekends, and a replacement parts list is issued before each race. As we all know, the team strengthens parts by repairing damage to the wings or suspension with carbon fiber. However, according to Parc ferme regulations, this type of operation and maintenance must be carried out very carefully, so as not to change the specifications of the car or change its shape when repairing parts so that it no longer meets the regulations.
We are talking about very small profits and will not bring any performance advantages, but it can be said that Mercedes’ DRS problem is indeed the case. It seems that Mercedes keeps mentioning Red Bull's rear wing repairs in Mexico, including repairing some of the surfaces of the wings, suggesting that future repairs of this nature may also be questioned. Opening Pandora's box does not require too many rival cars and even protests. .
If Wolfe’s "diplomatic time is over" message is serious, it is a danger that there are as many races in the car inspection area and butler's office as there are on the track in the last few races.