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Formula 1: New champion Max Verstappen back on track in testing as clock ticks on Mercedes appeal


The latest news as the Abu Dhabi GP aftermath continues, with Max Verstappen back on track in testing, Mercedes still deliberating over whether to appeal or not, while Lewis Hamilton is set to receive his knighthood

Last Updated: 14/12/21 5:21pm

Max Verstappen was taking part in testing in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday

Max Verstappen was taking part in testing in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday

Max Verstappen hit the track as a Formula 1 champion for the first time on Tuesday, with the Dutchman taking part in post-season testing less than 48 hours after he claimed the title in a race that continues to stir debate and drive scrutiny on the sport and its governing body.

Completing 124 laps around the same Yas Marina Circuit he overtook Lewis Hamilton on to win the Abu Dhabi GP and his maiden F1 crown, Verstappen was one of 19 – a combination of current and inexperienced drivers – who were testing the new 18-inch tyres in modified mule cars ahead of 2022.

He finished 17th on the timesheet, ahead of George Russell in the Mercedes – testing before his move to partner Hamilton next year.

Formula E champion Nyck de Vries topped the day in the Merc, while other notable participants were Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou – starting their Alfa Romeo partnership early – F2 title-winner Oscar Piastri in the Alpine and IndyCar front-runner Pato O’Ward for McLaren.

The annual end-of-season test, which will conclude on Wednesday with the final day of track action for 2021, is taking place amid continued controversy for the sport following an Abu Dhabi conclusion and result that Mercedes have lodged an intention to appeal.

They have until Thursday night to officially appeal – the same night Verstappen is due to be crowned champion at the FIA Prize Giving Ceremony – or back away completely.

George Russell tested for Mercedes on Tuesday ahead of his 2022 move

George Russell tested for Mercedes on Tuesday ahead of his 2022 move

 Pato O'Ward in the McLaren

Pato O’Ward in the McLaren

What’s the latest in F1 and will Merc appeal?

The aftermath to the Abu Dhabi GP decider has been understandably turbulent and contrasting, with Verstappen celebrating and conducting media calls about a well-deserved first crown, while the circumstances which led to him achieving that on Sunday continue to be questioned.

The FIA, F1’s governing body, and Race Director Michael Masi have particularly come under increased scrutiny following the handling of the final laps and the rules, with the decision to run a final lap after the Safety Car – and allowing five cars to unlap themselves – ultimately having a huge say on the championship.

Experience the incredible conclusion of the Abu Dhabi GP from on-board Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton's cars and listen to the team radios, including Hamilton saying the race had been 'manipulated'

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Experience the incredible conclusion of the Abu Dhabi GP from on-board Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton’s cars and listen to the team radios, including Hamilton saying the race had been ‘manipulated’

Experience the incredible conclusion of the Abu Dhabi GP from on-board Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton’s cars and listen to the team radios, including Hamilton saying the race had been ‘manipulated’

Given the seemingly loose application of what are complicated regulations, some may say the season ended with an entertainment angle in mind rather than a sporting one. From F1’s side, they insist they did not influence the FIA and are passengers once the race starts, with the FIA and Race Director then making the decisions.

Masi, who like Mercedes has not commented publicly since the race, has made calls this year which have seen both drivers and teams in the title race blast a lack of consistency, but undoubtedly did what he felt was right in the dramatic and unique circumstances, which was seemingly for the most remarkable championship not to be ended under the Safety Car. “It’s called motor racing,” he said to Wolff on team radio after the race.

Along with criticism for the Australian, who replaced Charlie Whiting following his passing on the eve of the 2019 season, there has been empathy – insisting he needs more help, much like Whiting received when he was in charge.

Former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone says the decision to end the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix under racing conditions was correct and Mercedes have nothing to complain about

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Former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone says the decision to end the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix under racing conditions was correct and Mercedes have nothing to complain about

Former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone says the decision to end the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix under racing conditions was correct and Mercedes have nothing to complain about

There may well be changes when it comes to that over the winter break.

What has to be sorted sooner, though, is Mercedes’ appeal, with the Silver Arrows already halfway through their 96-hour window to appeal after their initial post-race protests were dismissed.

But, needing to overturn the stewards’ verdicts, the result of the race and subsequently the championship, it is an uphill battle.

Sky F1's David Croft says Mercedes 'felt robbed' by the result of the Abu Dhabi GP, but does not expect them to launch a second appeal

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Sky F1’s David Croft says Mercedes ‘felt robbed’ by the result of the Abu Dhabi GP, but does not expect them to launch a second appeal

Sky F1’s David Croft says Mercedes ‘felt robbed’ by the result of the Abu Dhabi GP, but does not expect them to launch a second appeal

“It sounds like Mercedes will probably back off from another appeal,” said Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft. “They don’t want to look like bad losers, they have a championship to celebrate, they are constructors’ champions for a record-breaking eighth time.

“They don’t want to drag this on and damage the reputation of the sport, they just wanted to give the man they think should be champion, the best chance of being champion. They felt robbed by what happened.”

Hamilton set to be knighted

And that’s not all for a rather hectic week in F1 as Hamilton, who has been silent on the F1 finale since Sunday, is due to receive his knighthood on Wednesday

Hamilton, 36, is due to attend an investiture at Windsor Castle to be honoured for services to motorsports.

He was given his knighthood in the New Year Honours list in 2020 following pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to approve the accolade.





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