FIA denies Mercedes’ request for a review of Verstappen, Hamilton incident


The FIA has denied Mercedes’ request for a review of the incident between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the Brazilian Grand Prix last week.

While defending the lead from Hamilton late in the race, Verstappen appeared to force the Mercedes driver wide. The stewards did not investigate the incident and Hamilton got past a few laps later, although Mercedes boss Toto Wolff labelled it “laughable” Verstappen was not penalised.

Mercedes made the request after new footage of Verstappen’s onboard camera materialised this week. The stewards denied the request on Friday, saying the evidence presented by Mercedes was not significant.

To trigger a review, evidence must be significant, relevant, new and unavailable to the stewards at the time the original decision was made.

Although the stewards said the evidence submitted was relevant and new, its verdict said: “There is nothing in the footage that changes the fact. Nor even, does this show anything that wasn’t considered by the Stewards at the time”.

In a comprehensive verdict, they also added: “The stewards do not sit passively during a race and did not do so in this case. By the time the Race Director asked the Stewards for their view and stated that it was going to be “Noted” on the timing screens, they were already looking at the available footage”.

The denied review request effectively confirms the result of the Brazilian Grand Prix as it happened. Mercedes had been seeking a penalty for Verstappen which would have bumped him to third position behind Valtteri Bottas and lost another three points in his lead over Hamilton in the drivers’ championship, which currently stands at 14.

Here’s what the stewards wrote on the four criteria required for a review:

Unavailable

It is undeniable that the Footage was unavailable to the Competitor at the time of the Stewards’ Decision. Only a single channel of video from each car is available to the broadcaster and the Stewards at any given time and during the incident on Lap 48, the camera selected on Car 33 was the rear facing camera. This then means that it is also unavailable to the Competitor. While not available live, all the other cameras are recorded on‐board the cars and are available for download post‐race. This test is therefore met.

New

Many camera angles are not available live to the competitors but are to the Stewards. So, the Stewards considered whether footage that is simply not broadcast or not available to the competitors should be considered new. This is especially in light of the argument that this type of decision is the equivalent of “play on” in other sports. The Competitor provided as an exhibit, Document 41 from the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix where the onboard 360⁰ camera in that case, which was unavailable to both the team and the Stewards at the time of the initial hearing, was subsequently available and considered “new” by the Stewards at the time. The Stewards consider this case to be similar and thus determine the test to be met.

Relevant

The Competitor proposed that the Footage was relevant because it was the only footage that allowed the overall position of the cars, the steering inputs of the driver of Car 33, the heading of the cars and the proximity of the cars to be analysed together. While the Stewards often have to make a decision with a limited set of facts, it is true that in making their review, the front facing camera was one of the angles that the Stewards looked for. The Footage is a direct view of the incident, is not extraneous and is therefore, in the Stewards opinion Relevant.

Significant

Whether this Footage is “significant” is really a question of whether or not it is likely to change the initial decision of the stewards. In the pertinent example brought forward by the Competitor from Austria in 2020, none of the footage available and viewed at the time of the decision, showed a yellow flag visible to the driver (Lewis Hamilton.) However, the new and previously unavailable 360⁰ camera footage, which was downloaded the next day, clearly showed that the yellow flag was visible from the car and the driver was penalized for failing to slow down. In that case, the footage absolutely changed the decision of the stewards and was thus significant. During the hearing, the Competitor asked that if the Stewards were unconvinced of the significance of the Footage, to be given the opportunity to present its view in that respect. Following the initial part of the hearing, the Stewards gave the Competitor the opportunity to do so, there being precedent for this. The previously unavailable Footage was played, and the Competitor also presented the Footage in a side‐by‐side comparison with the previous lap.

As noted above, the Stewards often must make a decision quickly and on a limited set of information. At the time of the decision, the Stewards felt they had sufficient information to make a decision, which subsequently broadly aligned with the immediate post‐race comments of both drivers involved. Had they felt that the forward‐facing camera video from Car 33 was crucial in order to take a decision, they would simply have placed the incident under investigation – to be investigated after the race – and rendered a decision after this video was available. They saw no need to do so.

The Competitor’s position is that this new Footage provides sufficient information for the Stewards to come to an altogether different conclusion than they did previously. However, the Stewards determine that the Footage shows nothing exceptional that is particularly different from the other angles that were available to them at the time, or that particularly changes their decision that was based on the originally available footage. Unlike the 2020 Austria case, in the judgement of the Stewards, there is nothing in the Footage that fundamentally changesthe facts. Nor even, doesthisshow anything that wasn’t considered by the Stewards at the time. Thus, the Stewards determine that the Footage, here, is not “Significant.”

Conclusion

The Stewards find, in their sole discretion, that:

  • With the reservations raised above, the decision is subject to the Right of Review;

  • That the Footage is New;

  • That the Footage was Unavailable to the Competitor at the time of the decision subject to the petition for review;

  • That the Footage is Relevant; but

  • That the Footage is not Significant;

The four key points required under Art. 14.1.1 are not met and the Stewards, therefore, deny the Competitor’s Right of Review. Competitors are reminded that, in accordance with Art. 14.3 of the ISC, this decision is not subject to appeal.



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