Christian Horner says Red Bull will fight Mercedes’ appeals in any potential court in order to defend Max Verstappen’s championship victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Mercedes protested the result of the race after Verstappen passed Lewis Hamilton on the final lap, claiming the race shouldn’t have restarted for one lap as the order to let lapped cars overtake the safety car had only just been given. The regulations state the safety car should be called in at the end of the following lap, but the Mercedes protest was dismissed as the stewards felt the regulations give race director Michael Masi full control over the safety car and its withdrawal.
Shortly after the protest was dismissed, Mercedes served notice of its intention to appeal, something Horner says his team is ready for.
“We’ll fight them in the appeal court and then in the legal court after that if they were to go that route,” Horner said.
“I think (Masi) made the right decision. He followed the rules procedure if you look at the rules available to him and he’s made the right call today. We felt he’d made the wrong at the beginning of the race – or the stewards made the wrong call – when Lewis didn’t give any time back, but I think it’s tough for them in difficult circumstances.
“We’ve always discussed throughout about ‘Let them race’ and about getting the races re-going, and he’s done that today. I think it was an exciting finale for all the fans to this world championship.”
With the race result only confirmed over four hours after the checkered flag, Horner admits it was a draining spell as the team fought its case.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster. It started with a bad start, Lewis making a great start and they had a bit more pace than us today. They elected to do a one-stop, we went onto the two-stop and then when (Nicholas) Latifi crashed we elected to take another set of tires.
“They got the race going again and Max had to make it count, he had one lap to do it and he nailed it. So the elation of that moment…and then obviously the summons start coming through for the safety car and another one for other stuff.
“It has been a tense couple of hours but hats off to the FIA and the stewards, who I believe have made the right decisions today.”
Hamilton himself only spoke post-race after getting out of his car in parc ferme, congratulating Verstappen and Red Bull and not passing comment on Masi’s decisions or the potential of a protest, but Horner also congratulated the seven-time world champion for the fight he put up.
“Of course it’s tough for him. I spoke to him after the race and it’s been a tough competition. He was very gracious, as was his father. I’m sure he’ll come back fighting hard next year.”