FIA's decision on Max Verstappen's defensive move drags on

FIA’s decision on Max Verstappen’s defensive move drags on as Lewis Hamilton and his Red Bull rival STILL wait to discover whether Sao Paulo duel will be resolved

  • Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton continue to wait on the FIA in Qatar 
  • Mercedes have called for a review into Verstappen’s defensive driving in Brazil 
  • However, the FIA are dragging out a response with the Qatar race approaching 

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen went to bed in the desert still waiting to hear how their duel at last weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix would be resolved.

At 9pm local time in Qatar, the stewards postponed until Friday a decision on whether even to grant Mercedes the Right of Review over Verstappen’s defensive driving as he fought Hamilton for the lead.

With just 14 points separating Verstappen from Hamilton with three races to go, including this Sunday’s in Doha, the ruling has potentially massive implications for the title battle. 

Max Verstappen (left) and Lewis Hamilton (right) are still awaiting a verdict on their Brazil duel

Mercedes have called for a new review after on board footage emerged of the incident in which Verstappen forced his Mercedes rival off track last Sunday

Verstappen pushed Hamilton wide of track but the Red Bull escaped any punishment

But observers could be forgiven for wondering why this is dragging on five days after the event. How to proceed hinges on whether the on-board footage from Verstappen’s car — not seen at the time but since handed by Mercedes to the FIA — amounts to a ‘significant and relevant new element that was (previously) unavailable’.

The process is not helped by the hearing having to be undertaken by the same four stewards who acted in Sao Paulo, and they have since dispersed, making it difficult to find a window to convene. It is all being conducted over computer screens, with team representatives here in the paddock also joining deliberations remotely.

Asked on Thursday if he would make the manoeuvre again, Verstappen, runner-up on the day, added: ‘Yes. As a driver, you know exactly what you can and can’t do in the car. We were fighting hard, braking late into the corner, and the tyres were worn. If I had turned more abruptly to the left he would have just spun off.’

The outcome of this appeal could have a huge impact on the title chase with three races left

Elsewhere, Red Bull are pondering their options with Mercedes finding fresh pace in their car

Hamilton, who produced one of his most outstanding drives to grab his 101st career win, was uncomplaining immediately afterwards, but on Thursday said: ‘It is difficult to judge when you haven’t seen all the angles. I’ve relooked at it and I have a different viewpoint, naturally, now.’

Red Bull are suspicious of Mercedes’ sudden turn of speed. Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko referred to the opposition’s ‘rocket engine’. He added: ‘We are mainly concerned with two things, which we may also take up with the FIA for clarification. If Hamilton is as superior this weekend as he was in Brazil, and then in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, we can write off the title.’

Red Bull are considering protesting Mercedes’ rear wing in an increasingly acrimonious fight.

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