Red Bull have criticised Mercedes for taking a barrister with them to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix just in case, as they did, things became messy off track.
After the dramatic and controversial end to the Formula 1 season, Mercedes lodged two protests against the outcome – and were able to call on the services of Paul Harris QC.
The aftermath of the eagerly-awaited title decider took on an unsatisfactory air as the celebrations of Red Bull and Max Verstappen were dampened by being called to the stewards’ office at Yas Marina.
Verstappen took the chequered flag to beat Lewis Hamilton to the race win and a first World Championship, the title rivals having been level on points entering the finale of a record 22-race campaign.
But Mercedes were unhappy with the way in which race director Michael Masi essentially turned the grand prix into a last-lap shootout following a Safety Car period with Verstappen, on new soft tyres, passing Hamilton who had stayed out on his old hard rubber.
That process formed the basis for one protest, while Mercedes, who won the Constructors’ Championship for an eighth straight year, also complained that Verstappen had briefly overtaken Hamilton under the Safety Car.
— Autosport (@autosport) December 12, 2021
In a season that has been peppered by bickering between the two leading teams, it had appeared peace had broken out this weekend with team principals Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, and Hamilton and Verstappen, being generally more magnanimous than previously.
However, that new-found respect had clearly dissipated somewhat as the stewards were reviewing the evidence to reach their final decision, with Red Bull unhappy that Mercedes had pre-empted any potential protests by having legal recourse available to them.
“We are a race team. We did not come here with a QC. We did not come ready to protest,” Autosport quoted a Red Bull spokesperson as saying.
Harris was the barrister who in 2020 led the successful appeal by football club Manchester City against their ban from the UEFA Champions League.
He has also represented Mercedes in cases such as the ‘tyregate’ hearing of 2013 when they were accused of carrying out illegal testing with Pirelli and when Daniel Riccardo, then of Red Bull, was disqualified from second place in the 2014 Australian Grand Prix.