Red Bull’s Mercedes Penalty Appeal Rejected, F1 Officials Point to ‘Created’ Evidence
A recreated lap of Silverstone and allegations that gave the stewards "some concern" aren't cutting it.
Red Bull decided earlier this week that it wasn't done banging on about the crash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the British Grand Prix. After the incident had escalated into an increasingly ugly war of words between Red Bull, Mercedes, and to some extent Hamilton and Verstappen themselves, a petition for the original penalty decision to be reviewed was lodged with the FIA stewards, set to be heard at 4 p.m. Hungarian time on Thursday.
In order for the review to be granted, Red Bull needed to submit "significant and relevant" new evidence. Teams have a history of not really understanding what this is, like when Ferrari submitted footage of Karun Chandhok's TV analysis to attempt to protest Sebastian Vettel's 2019 Canadian Grand Prix penalty. That was quite embarrassing—and pretty funny—but Red Bull seems to have gone a step further on every level, including crossing a line that Mercedes called an attempt to "tarnish the good name" of Hamilton.
Red Bull's evidence, as described in the FIA document, was a PowerPoint presentation of slides that included GPS data on how and where Hamilton and Verstappen's cars moved during the incident. This would have been available to the team and stewards at the time the original decision was made, so it couldn't cut it as new evidence, dismissing that straight off the bat.
Then what they describe gets a bit more...theatrical. Red Bull used its reserve driver to recreate the lines taken by Hamilton and Verstappen, both virtually and in the real world, and submitted footage of it.
Red Bull had what's called a "filming day" which is a limited-running event, not intended for testing but for getting the PR shots you need of your car for sponsors and b-roll, on July 22 at Silverstone. Former Red Bull driver Alex Albon was running the car for what should have been a fairly straightforward bit of glamor shot slow-running and as much actual testing as the engineers can get away with.
Instead, he appears to have found himself recreating a telenovela version of Hamilton and Verstappen's lines through Silverstone's Copse turn. Really, Albon was driving a Red Bull, on a completely different day, so none of what he did would have been relevant to what Hamilton did in a Mercedes previously. That's a level of investment in this saga that completely gives the lie to the claims Red Bull has been making that its primary concerns are the cost of the incident, at an alleged $1.8 million.
Obviously, you cannot use dramatic recreations as new evidence. The FIA says anything significant and relevant would have to be discovered, not "created," so Red Bull's petition for a review was not granted.
In addition to not granting the review, though, the document ended with an interesting paragraph. "The Stewards note, with some concern, certain allegations made in the Competitor's above letter. Such allegations may or may not have been relevant to the Stewards if the Petition for Review had been granted. The Stewards may have addressed these allegations directly in any decision that would have followed. The Petition having been dismissed, the Stewards make no comments on these allegations."
Mercedes elaborated on what those allegations entailed in a statement posted to social media. "In addition to bringing this incident to a close, we hope that this decision will mark the end of a concerted attempt by the senior management of Red Bull Racing to tarnish the good name and sporting integrity of Lewis Hamilton, including in the documents submitted for their unsuccessful right of review."
While a lot of the theatrics surrounding this are pretty entertaining in the wild, Netflix ride that is F1, it's worth remembering that things got so ugly after the Grand Prix that even the FIA—silent on this matter for the whole of Hamilton's career previously—had to step in and ask fans to stop racially abusing him on social media.
This has been a seriously ugly chapter, now closed just before F1's summer break. Let's hope the rest of a genuinely exciting title fight isn't soured by what's happened because Verstappen and Hamilton are worthy rivals, whose on-track fight is more than enough drama.
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