Two major Mercedes mistakes were as much a factor in Max Verstappen 's sensational world title win as the late safety car, according to Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko.
After Nicholas Latifi's crash brought out the yellow flags, allowing the Dutchman to close the gap on race leader Lewis Hamilton, he overtook his rival on the final lap to secure his maiden F1 crown.
Marko admitted the safety car was a huge stroke of luck, but also said he believes a couple of errors from their rivals across the paddock made a big difference in the outcome.
While Red Bull pitted Verstappen for new tyres in both safety car periods during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Mercedes were unwilling or unable to bring Hamilton in and left him leading the pack on old hard rubber.
That, the Austrian says, was a key factor in the result of the race and, in turn, the championship.
"The safety car came at the ideal time for us," Marko told Speedweek. "After all the bad luck we've had this year, luck had to turn in our favour at some point.
"That happened – and the decision to put on the soft tyres during Max's last pit stop was spot on.
"Mercedes actually missed two safety car phases. They made it easy for us to work in this direction."
While Verstappen and Red Bull were delighted by the stroke of luck they received at the Yas Marina Circuit, Mercedes were furious with how the title was decided.
The deployment of the safety car is a non-issue, even if it was inconvenient for Hamilton – Latifi's Williams came to rest in the middle of the track after his crash, so race director Michael Masi was always going to act in the name of safety.
But it is the fast-tracked ending to the safety car period which has the Silver Arrows so frustrated, as Masi hurried to get the race back on for one final lap after the crash debris had been cleared away.
Mercedes believe he broke the rules by doing this, as the FIA's sporting regulations state the safety car should come in at the end of the lap after the one in which all back-markers have unlapped themselves.
There were still some lapped cars in the field as Masi gave the go-ahead for that final lap of racing.
Mercedes protested the result on that basis, but the stewards rejected the motion on the basis that the rules also give the race director the power to operate the safety car as he sees fit.
They also took exception to Mercedes' suggestion that the standings at the end of the penultimate lap should instead be used, as this would be "effectively shortening the race retrospectively, and hence not appropriate".
The team has announced its intention to appeal the decision, with confirmation of whether or not it will follow through on that process set to be made public in the coming days.
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