The F1 community has been caught in a whirlwind of opinions and accusations in the aftermath of the incident between Lewis and Max at Silverstone two weeks ago. The incident happened on the first lap in the Copse corner when Hamilton dummied Max on the outside, only to launch one down the inside of Max.
Verstappen tried to defend the move, but it was too late, and the two ended up touching wheels which sent Max flying into the barriers. The stewards judged Hamilton to be ‘predominantly’ in the wrong and awarded him a ten-second time penalty that he served during his pit stop. Hamilton emerged in fifth after serving his penalty and hunted down Lando, Valtteri, and Leclerc to win.
This result angered Red Bull more than anything else as they felt Lewis deserved a much harsher punishment for causing the collision. Dr. Helmut Marko even asked for Lewis to be suspended for a race for what he called ‘dangerous driving.’ Red Bull felt hard done by the steward’s light penalty for Lewis, considering that he went on to win the race, and they didn’t score any points from either car in the race.
Red Bull’s formal protest
In the immediate aftermath of the race, Red Bull hired a lawyer to help them evaluate the situation in the hope of finding just cause to pursue a course of action against Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team. That course of action came in the form of a petition to review the Stewards’ decision which is provided for under Article 14 of the FIA International Sporting Code (ISC).
The stewards received a petition for a Right of Review from Red Bull on July 23rd, which was within the two-week window when teams can request to review decisions and rulings made by the Stewards during the event.
A hearing was scheduled for Thursday, July 29th, just before the commencement of activities for the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend. In attendance for Mercedes were Ron Meadows (Sporting Director), Andrew Shovlin (Trackside Engineering Director), and James Vowles (Motorsport Strategy Director). On the Red Bull side were Christian Horner (Team Principal), Ben Waterhouse (Head of Performance Engineering), and Jonathan Wheatley, Red Bull’s Sporting Director. It is worth mentioning that Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff was absent from the meeting.
Red Bull’s ‘new evidence.’
One of the conditions for petitioning for a review is that the team making the petition should have discovered some new evidence that wasn’t available to the stewards when they made their decision. This means that Red Bull had to submit new evidence about the incident that was material to the incident that wasn’t available to either them or the stewards when the stewards made their decision.
For evidence, Red Bull submitted a written letter to the FIA with appendixes setting out Red Bull’s arguments supporting the petition. Appendix 2 consisted of what Red Bull had discovered in the aftermath of the crash and what they considered ‘New Evidence.’ The appendix included;
- Slides created by Red Bull showing analysis of GPS data for both Hamilton and Verstappen’s cars during the incident at Copse.
- Slides created by Red Bull showing the various comparisons with the line taken by Hamilton when he was overtaking Charles Leclerc at the same corner on Lap 50.
- Slides created by Red Bull showing lap simulations of the incident and a ‘re-enactment of Hamilton’s first lap at Silverstone’ based on a lap driven by Red Bull test driver Alex Albion in a 2019 Red Bull.
As you can see, the evidence that Red Bull put forward wasn’t so much discovered as it was created by the team for the purposes of the petition. In my opinion, this played a significant role in the Stewards’ eventual decision.
The Stewards’ ruling on Red Bull’s petition
After deliberating, the Stewards decided to reject Red Bull’s petition to review and thus upheld the decision made by the Silverstone Stewards during the race. This ruling means that the ten-second penalty stands and that Lewis Hamilton gets to keep his win.
Many will interpret this to mean that Red Bull didn’t have a case, which is not what this ruling means. All it means is that Red Bull failed to meet the criteria set up by the FIA regarding petitions to review. The FIA criteria demand that “a new element” of evidence that is “significant and relevant” has to be “discovered,” and it has to have been “unavailable” to the competitor at the time the decision is made.
According to this criteria, Red Bull’s petition was rejected since most of their evidence was created rather than discovered and was not “a significant new element” for the stewards to consider. The evidence was also created from data (GPS) available to the teams at the time of the Stewards’ penalty.
Now that the petition to review has been rejected, I hope that the crazy circus that has surrounded that incident since the British Grand Prix can all be put to rest, and we can go back to racing. The Hungarian Grand Prix is this weekend, and many expect Red Bull to get their revenge on track and not in the Stewards Office, as it should be.