Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has taken aim at Mercedes following their decision to lodge an appeal against the result of Sunday’s season-ending and Championship-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Following a late crash for Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, race director Michael Masi deployed the safety car, bunching the pack up.
There were lapped cars and therefore daylight between leader Sir Lewis Hamilton and his Championship rival Max Verstappen.
However, a last-minute decision to allow lapped cars through meant Verstappen, on fresh soft tyres, could pass Hamilton and claim the title in the most dramatic of season finales.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was left livid at the decision, and decided to lodge a protest at the end of the race.
Having seen their initial appeal dismissed, Mercedes will now take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – and Horner is not impressed.
“It obviously felt a little bit desperate but we didn’t want it to finish in front of the stewards,” said Horner.
“We never wanted to end up in front of the stewards, there was obviously a lot of debate before the race. As it turns out it was obviously very different after the race, we don’t go racing with barristers and so on – it was a shame it ended up there but the stewards made the right call.”
Following several polemic incidents between Hamilton and Verstappen in recent weeks, Horner was keen to point out that it was Mercedes that rallied for hard racing, citing the late Niki Lauda.
“We have talked about ‘let them race’, Niki Lauda was the guy who pushed hard for it and we’ve always talked about not finishing racing under safety cars, the race director in difficult circumstances made absolutely the right call and strategically we got it right.”
Furthermore, the Red Bull boss said that Verstappen should not be punished for an incident over which he had no influence, but maintained that the stewarding decisions were correct.
“They got the race going again and Max had to make it count, he had one lap to do it and he nailed it. So the elation of that moment…and then obviously the summons start coming through for the safety car and another one for other stuff.
“It has been a tense couple of hours but hats off to the FIA and the stewards who I believe have made the right decisions today.”
Pending Mercedes’ court appeal, Verstappen is now Red Bull’s second Drivers’ Champion, and the first-ever Dutchman to win an F1 crown. Hamilton, meanwhile, must wait for his eighth title.
In spite of the heartbreak for Hamilton, Mercedes extended their remarkable record of consecutive Constructors’ Championships, having claimed their eighth in Abu Dhabi.