In the end it turned out that there was a lot of bleating and a little wool. After five days of racing at Interlagos, it is finally clear that Max Verstappen retains his second place in the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Red Bull Racing driver has yet to be penalized for fiercely defending his position in a duel with nearest striker Lewis Hamilton.
Mercedes’ plea to reopen the investigation was ignored. The video evidence provided has been categorized as “junk” by the Formula 1 authorities.
The gist of the verdict: The new Mercedes photos did not give a reason to reopen the investigation. So the jury did not re-evaluate whether Verstappen’s procedure was admissible. Thus, the decision during the race to leave it undisturbed (“let them race”) remains intact.
White smoke in a wonderful moment
The timing of the FIA’s decision was remarkable: white smoke appeared from the offices of the motorsport police in the middle of the press conference where both parties appeared: team bosses Toto Wolff (Mercedes) and Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing).
Turns out, Mercedes had calculated the rejection. “It was no surprise. It was about principle for us,” was Wolff’s first reaction.
“We did not expect that we would gain anything from this. This was not our goal at all. We wanted to start a discussion and fire it up. Clarify clarity. What is allowed and what is not? Where is the limit? Success.”
“If Louis Max had not evaded, they would have fallen,” said Wolff. “The video shows that Max didn’t want to make a corner. The hosts should have access to all relevant channels during the race. And fast. That will remain a topic in the upcoming races in this title fight and is now on the map.”
“Of course it’s the right decision,” says Verstappens boss Horner. “I’m not surprised and don’t understand why it took so long.” “If you agree to such a request from Mercedes, Pandora’s box opens. Then the end is lost and you can drag everything inside. Where do you draw the line then?”
“You find some accidents at every race that you can still check with new camera angles. Then you get question marks all over the place and you set a precedent.”
Horner is highly critical of the Mercedes rival’s attack. “You always have to ask the question with these kinds of things: Is this new? Is this relevant? Important? Well, it definitely wasn’t. There was already enough camera footage of the race management to make a judgment during the race.”
It is very severe. We’ve worked hard to get this far.
“It’s a completely different story than what happened to us at Silverstone,” Horner said. “Then the collision between Lewis and Max led to the loss of the race, a write-off of a car and a driver who had to go to the hospital.”
“In Brazil, Lewis Hamilton just won the race and he wasn’t bothered by it. He’s incomparable. It wasn’t a problem. Here were two drivers vying for the title.”
Wolf takes defeat and realizes that he must now focus on the remaining weeks. “We had a file with new evidence and that seemed to work for me. It makes sense that we have different points of view. It is now a matter of refining it. We will continue. The rules are now clear and we will start working on them.”
Three more grand prizes
Lewis Hamilton has three more races to replace Verstappen from pole position at the World Cup. Mercedes has three more races to expand the constructors’ title. “We don’t want the world title to be decided by the race management after the decisive grand prix,” says Wolff. “We’re not looking for a controversial conclusion and we don’t want to confuse it for weeks.”
Relationships are clearly strained. Mercedes and Red Bull Racing will do everything they can to balance each other out in the coming weeks. “I respect Mercedes’ performance, but it’s a competition,” Horner said. “We are in the midst of the fiercest giant duel since we entered the sport.” “We’re competitive and there’s a lot at stake. It’s very intense work. We’ve worked hard to get this far.”
Interestingly, Horner’s answer to the question of whether the relationship between him and Wolff is under pressure. “There is no relationship. It would be fake if we pretended to be friends. Sport is the winner. It’s the first time in seven years that Mercedes has been challenged. Wolf and I are completely different personalities. Not kissing Toto’s ass, but I find it fascinating to see how people change When they are under pressure.
Wolf insists that mutual respect is sound. “There are a lot of great people on both teams. It’s a hell of a fight and it’s going to be tough. That makes sense. This is the biggest title in motorsports. It’s tough. We were already playing professionally and now it’s mixed martial arts. We’re in the ring. Elbows are allowed with gloves up. This is allowed. This is part of it. I will continue to defend my tribe with passion.”