Lewis Hamilton’s bid for a record-breaking eighth world championship took another fascinating twist on Tuesday after Mercedes called on Formula One’s stewards to reconsider their decision not to penalise rival Max Verstappen at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton won the Interlagos race following a superb comeback drive, but Verstappen escaped punishment for running his rival off the road as they duelled for first position.
The stewards noted the incident before looking at the footage and choosing not to launch a formal investigation – a decision Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff described as “laughable”.
FIA race director Michael Masi later revealed that the on-board front-facing video from Verstappen’s car was not available when the stewards acted.
At 12:25pm, the footage was aired on social media for the first time, and a little more than three hours later, Mercedes officially exercised their right to review the flashpoint.
In a short statement, the world champions said: “The Mercedes Team confirms that we have today requested a Right of Review under Article 14.1.1 of the International Sporting Code in relation to the Turn 4 incident between Car 44 [Hamilton] and Car 33 [Verstappen] on lap 48 of the Brazilian Grand Prix, on the basis of new evidence unavailable to the stewards at the time of their decision.”
Max vs Lewis ⚔️
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 16, 2021
The FIA’s International Sporting Code allows a right to review on the grounds that “a significant and relevant new element is discovered which was unavailable to the parties seeking the review at the time of the decision concerned”.
The stewards will now consider the significance of the new footage and whether it warrants an appeal.
A retrospective five-second time penalty for Verstappen would see him drop behind Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas to third in Sunday’s result – reducing his championship advantage over Hamilton from 14 to 11 points.
A grid penalty could also be an option to the stewards.
It is expected the stewards from the Interlagos race could hear Mercedes’ case as early as Thursday in Doha ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix.
With just three rounds remaining and 78 points available their verdict could prove pivotal in whether Hamilton goes on to win his seventh title in eight years.
Back in July, Red Bull exercised their right to review Hamilton’s 10-second punishment following his collision with Verstappen at the British Grand Prix, but their case was thrown out by the stewards.