Jenson Button is “struggling to understand” the Formula 1 regulations after Lewis Hamilton escaped punishment on the opening lap in Abu Dhabi.
Starting P2, Hamilton took the lead from pole-sitter Max Verstappen off the line. But down the back straight Verstappen fought back, launching a move down the inside of the Briton.
While Verstappen just about kept his Red Bull within the lines, Hamilton went over the run-off area and returned to the track leading and with a bigger advantage over the Dutchman.
At the previous round in Saudi Arabia, Verstappen was punished several times for similar incidents, being the aggressor on those occasions.
A great start from Lewis Hamilton and he's up into P1!
Max Verstappen tries to battle back through the chicane on the opening lap, but Hamilton holds on 🍿
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 12, 2021
However, the stewards did not take action against Hamilton, arguing he had allowed Verstappen to close back in on him and wipe out the advantage.
Understandably that confused and angered both Verstappen and Red Bull, and also at a loss was 2009 World Champion Button, who said he now “struggles to understand” what the rules are on such wheel-to-wheel combat.
“It was a very late lunge but it was always going to happen,” he said as part of Sky F1’s coverage of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“Lewis knew he was coming and he pushed Lewis off, I guess, but he stayed on the track.
“I’m struggling to understand the regulations right now because obviously in Brazil, there was no penalty but they both drove off the circuit whereas Max stayed on the track this time.”
It appeared Hamilton was on his way to victory and a record eighth World Championship, but in typical fashion for this legendary season there was a major twist still to come.
A late crash for Nicholas Latifi triggered the Safety Car, Verstappen took a ‘free’ pit-stop for soft tyres and when the race restarted with one lap to go, Verstappen got the overtake done, driving on to the line and becoming Formula 1 World Champion for the first time.
Mercedes protested on two counts but their pleas were dismissed by the FIA, although an International Court of Appeal hearing remains a possibility.