Mercedes withdraws appeal against controversial Formula 1 season finale

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By AP  with Euronews
Lewis Hamilton (L) applauds as Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates his victory in Abu Dhabi.
Lewis Hamilton (L) applauds as Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates his victory in Abu Dhabi.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Mercedes has withdrawn their appeal against Formula One over the controversial finish that saw Max Verstappen crowned world champion.

Decisions over the use of a safety car on the final lap of the race allowed Verstappen -- the Netherlands and Red Bull driver -- to triumph while denying Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton a record eighth F1 championship.

Mercedes had filed two protests following Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but both were initially dismissed.

The team has now decided against taking their case to the International Court of Appeal, a process that could have dragged into next year.

“We left Abu Dhabi in disbelief of what we had just witnessed," Mercedes said in a statement. “Of course, it’s part of the game to lose a race, but it’s something different when you lose faith in racing.”

The safety was brought out with five laps remaining during the Grand Prix, with Hamilton nearly 12 seconds in front of Verstappen -- who decided to pit for fresh tyres.

The FIA race director initially said lapped drivers could not pass the safety car, but then reversed the call -- returning Verstappen to second place when the race resumed with just one lap remaining. Verstappen then passed Hamilton with relative ease to win his first F1 world championship.

Mercedes said the safety car rules “were applied in a new way that affected the race result" and the decision was not “in the interest of sporting fairness".

But according to the team's statement, Hamilton himself had decided not to move forward with the appeal.

Mercedes also congratulated Verstappen and Red Bull, and called the 24-year-old Dutchman a “flawless sportsman on and off the track” who “delivered a faultless performance”.

"We look forward to taking the fight to you on the track next season," the statement added.

The FIA has said it will conduct an analysis of the ending and acknowledged the controversy is “tarnishing the image of the championship”.