Formula 1 Racing

Verdict on error in GT race suggests Mercedes would have lost 2021 Abu Dhabi GP appeal · RaceFans

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2021

The FIA’s International Court of Appeal (ICA) determined that an erroneous application of Safety Car rules by a race director is not enough of a reason to annul the results of a FIA sanctioned race.

The governing body of motorsport’s highest court recently quashed a ruling from the Spanish Automobile Federation’s National Court of Appeal (NCA) regarding a race in the International GT Open series last year which was annulled due to a Safety Car restart taking place with cars out of the correct order. Although the verdict was announced weeks earlier, the full explanation for the decision was only published this week.

The decision has parallels to the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race of the season, which decided the outcome of the championship and the events of the final race in Abu Dhabi of that year. The ICA’s decision has changed the identity of the International GT Open champion.

Mid way through the International GT Open series second race at the Red Bull Ring last October, the Safety Car was deployed for the second time in the race. However, the Safety Car did not pick up race leader Karol Basz, but 12th placed Alessandro Cozzi instead. The race restarted with Cozzi at the head of the train, rather than Basz as should have occurred under normal Safety Car procedure.

After the race, the Motopark team protested the result with the stewards due to the erroneous Safety Car execution. The stewards rejected that protest, with Motopark appealing to the Spanish Automobile Federation’s NCA, which upheld that appeal, cancelling the race stewards’ decision and annulling the results of the race.

Following an appeal of the annulment by competitors Optimum Motorsport, the ICA quashed the NCA’s decision and restored the race results to those originally announced. The ICA determined that that while race director Neus Santamaria failed to correctly apply the Safety Car rules through a genuine mistake while acting in good faith, that was not reason enough to amend or annul the results of the race.

Among the reasons for this decision were that the ICA determined that the incident did not constitute ‘force majeure’ – something that all parties involved agreed with. It also determined that annulling the results of a race which had impact on subsequent races in terms of time penalties imposed would have had an impact on results which would have breached the concept of…

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