Lewis Hamilton insisted Formula One must ensure that there is no bias from stewards heading into the 2022 season.

Hamilton was beaten by Red Bull's Max Verstappen in a contentious conclusion to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after race director Michael Masi elected to allow a series of cars to pass a late safety car, permitting one lap of racing with the Dutchman on new tyres.

Masi has since been removed from his role, while rumours abounded that Hamilton could leave the sport, though the seven-time world champion last week confirmed he would be racing once again for Mercedes this season.

Two new race directors will share the role Masi has vacated.

At the first testing session in Barcelona ahead of the new campaign, which starts on March 20 in Bahrain, Hamilton was asked if the changes would result in more consistent decision-making.

"We need to make sure we have non-biased stewards, too," the 37-year-old said.

"Racing drivers, some are very good friends with certain individuals, some travel with certain individuals and tend to take more of a keen liking to some of them.

"I think [we need] people who have no bias, are super central when it comes to making decisions."

Hamilton's belief is not shared by his team's boss, Toto Wolff, however.

"I think we need professionalism in the stewards' room," said Wolff in a news conference.

"I don't think there is a conscious bias to be honest. It's intelligent people."

Red Bull's Christian Horner, who has a not-so-secret rivalry with his Mercedes counterpart, agreed.

"I would agree with Toto that I don't think there's an intended bias. I'm not aware of any stewards travelling with drivers to races," he added.

"In [FIA president] Mohammed [ben Sulayem] we have a new president that is looking to bolster the structure and bring in an equivalent of a VAR [video assistant referee, used in football], and I think giving a better infrastructure for clearer decisions with clearer regulations is something that should be strived for.

"But I certainly don't think there was any bias from any stewards during the last seasons."

Lewis Hamilton has denied reports he was considering leaving Formula One, as the seven-time Drivers Champion looks to bounce back from the controversial finale to the 2021 season.

Hamilton was beaten by Red Bull's Max Verstappen in a contentious conclusion to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after race director Michael Masi elected to allow a series of cars to pass a late safety car, permitting one lap of racing with the Dutchman on new tyres.

Masi has since been removed from his role, while rumours abounded that Hamilton could leave the sport. But, speaking at the launch of Mercedes' new W13 car, Hamilton denied that his return was ever in question.

"I never, ever said that I was going to stop", he said. "I love doing what I do, and it is such a privilege working with this large group of people.

"You really feel like you're part of a team and part of a family, working towards that common goal. There's no feeling quite like it.

"But yeah...it was obviously a difficult time for me, and it was a time where I really needed to take a step back and focus on being present."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff had previously hinted that Hamilton was left 'disillusioned' by finishing second, but the 37-year-old now claims to be focused on making a successful start to the 2022 season next month.

He also expressed his excitement at working with new teammate George Russell, who has replaced Valtteri Bottas after leaving Williams in the off-season.

"I eventually got to a point where I decided I was going to be attacking, coming into another season working with Toto and George," he added.

"It's exciting seeing George come in and bring his energy. I can already feel that throughout the team. I think it's going to be an exciting season."

The launch of the W13 sees the German constructor return to its classic silver livery after two years using a black colourway, as part of an anti-racism campaign, and the car has been advertised by Mercedes as '98 per cent new' and as 'the product of a complete redesign from top to bottom'.

With the team bidding for a ninth consecutive Constructors' Championship title, Hamilton is keen to ensure standards remain high.

He said: "Naturally, every single individual within this team has worked towards the ultimate goal of winning the world championship, raising the bar and doing something that no one else has done before."

Michael Masi will no longer serve as race director in Formula One as the fallout from the 2021 finale in Abu Dhabi continues.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem announced on Thursday "an in-depth reform of the organisation of refereeing and race direction" in F1, which was unanimously supported by the teams.

This followed a "detailed analysis" of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen dramatically beat Lewis Hamilton to the drivers' championship last season.

Verstappen pipped Hamilton in the final lap of the final race, denying his rival a record-breaking eighth title.

However, the Red Bull superstar was only able to stage that late recovery after Masi let the cars between the pair – running first and second but separated by a series of lapped rivals – pass a safety car and allow one lap of racing.

Verstappen, on fresher tyres, prevailed, prompting a protest from Hamilton and Mercedes.

Although that bid failed, there has remained a great deal of discussion around Masi's decision-making, leading to Ben Sulayem unveiling his "new step forward in Formula One refereeing".

The most significant change made by the FIA chief is Masi's removal as race director, to be replaced by two men in Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas.

Starting from pre-season testing in Barcelona, the new pair will alternate as race director, assisted by permanent senior advisor Herbie Blash.

However, Masi is not necessarily out entirely, as Ben Sulayem added: "Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three years as Formula One race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA."

Other changes include a reassessment of the unlapping procedures that caused such controversy.

"Without the referees, there is no sport," Ben Sulayem said. "Respect and support of the referees is in the essence of the FIA.

"That is why these structural changes are crucial in a context of strong development and the legitimate expectations of drivers, teams, manufacturers, organisers, and of course, the fans.

"I warmly thank all those who contributed to this reform.

"These changes will enable us to start the 2022 Formula One season in the best conditions, and our sport will be even more loved and respected."

Lewis Hamilton appears to be back and ready to chase another Formula One title with Mercedes.

The contentious nature in which Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth drivers' championship in 2021 had prompted talk he would quit the sport.

Hamilton was pipped by Max Verstappen in the final seconds of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix following a controversial decision from race director Michael Masi to let the cars between the pair – running first and second but separated by a series of lapped rivals – pass a late safety car and allow one lap of racing.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff warned it was "not possible" for Hamilton to get over the nature of that result, and little has been heard from the Briton since.

But the former McLaren man ended his social media silence earlier this month when he posted: "I've been gone. Now I'm back!"

And Mercedes' own Twitter posts have now revealed Hamilton is back with the team ahead of the launch of their W13 car.

After sharing a picture of Hamilton with the caption "Year 16", the Silver Arrows uploaded footage of new team-mate George Russell being fitted in his seat.

Hamilton appears in the video and greets Russell, and the team added: "Oh wait, Lewis is in this?" A picture of Hamilton with Russell followed.

Hamilton last year signed a contract that ties him to Mercedes through the 2023 season.

Max Verstappen insists he fully deserved his Formula One world championship triumph and does not believe the achievement has been overshadowed by the ongoing controversy around the title-deciding race.

The 24-year-old clinched his first title by pipping seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December.

Hamilton had built up a healthy lead over his Red Bull rival in the season finale, with both men having entered the race level on points, until a controversial late safety car period was followed by Verstappen overtaking the Mercedes driver on the final lap.

Mercedes were furious with how race rules were applied in a safety-car situation and challenged the result, believing Hamilton was unfairly prevented from winning the race and the championship when Verstappen passed him with only a few corners remaining.

The FIA last month announced a "detailed analysis" of the contentious ending has started, with the result of the inquiry to be released before this season's first race in Bahrain on March 20.

Regardless of the verdict reached by the sport's governing body, Verstappen does not believe the controversy detracts from his triumph.

"[The FIA] can't do anything," Verstappen told The Guardian.

Asked if he felt his maiden title triumph has been overshadowed somewhat, the Dutchman replied: "Not at all. I had a very good season and I think I really deserved it. 

"I have been really unlucky as well. People always remember the last race but, if you look at the whole season, the championship should have been decided way earlier."

Verstappen was graciously congratulated by Hamilton following his title-clinching victory in Abu Dhabi, bringing down the curtain on an eventful season that saw both drivers take it in turns to lead the standings.

A low point in the campaign for Verstappen came at the British Grand Prix in July when clashing with Hamilton on the first lap as the home favourite tried to force his way down the inside at Copse Corner.

Verstappen smashed the barriers at 180mph and therefore did not finish the race, with Hamilton finishing first and wildly celebrating his win while his title rival was being examined in hospital.

However, the Red Bull driver did not use that as extra motivation for the second half of the season.

"I don't think we work like that," he said. "It's disrespectful what happened there but we looked at what we could have done better. 

"Once we came back from the break as a team we really did a good job because we won races in the second half of the season we shouldn't have won."

While talk still rumbles on regarding the end of the 2021 season, the new campaign is now just over a month away and Verstappen has a target on his back as defending champion.

"That little pressure in the back of your mind, of having to win a world championship or trying to win it, has gone," he said. 

"It's already happened. I've done it. So when it's tough or you're having bad luck you probably will deal with it easier than normal."

Lewis Hamilton has hinted he may return to Formula One this season in a cryptic post on his social media accounts.

The seven-time world champion's future in the sport is uncertain after he was denied a record-breaking eighth title by Max Verstappen at the end of last season.

Hamilton looked set to surpass Michael Schumacher heading into the final stage of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, only for Verstappen to controversially snatch glory in the closing moments.

It is unknown whether the Mercedes driver will return in 2022, with former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone stating his belief that he would retire.

Meanwhile, brother Nicolas confirmed that Hamilton was taking a break from social media – on which he had been quiet having not posted since December 11 – while relaxing with family in the ski slopes.

But the 37-year-old has broken his silence. Addressing his 33.8 million followers across Twitter and Instagram, Hamilton posted: "I've been gone. Now I'm back!"

Should he return, Hamilton is set to partner George Russell at Mercedes in his latest quest for an eighth world title.

Mercedes hope they will be prepared for the 2022 Formula One season, in which technical director James Allison is forecasting "a terribly painful year" for teams who get their car "really badly wrong". 

F1 is belatedly introducing its game-changing new regulations in the coming year, shaking up the sport after an epic 2021 season. 

The 2022 car has been designed with the aim to end the dominance of any one team and ensure closer racing. 

Mercedes, whose Lewis Hamilton was agonisingly pipped to the title by Max Verstappen in the previous campaign, will expect to again be at the forefront of a title tussle, but Allison recognises some outfits will be caught unaware. 

The price for making mistakes this year is a significant one, he believes. 

"Everyone in our team, and everyone in every other team, will have done our level best to try to find a design and an approach that will be a happy match to this new regulation set," Allison said in a video posted by Mercedes. 

"And we'll all get to find out together at the start of this season, in the races that unfold from there, exactly how that shakes out. 

"I would imagine, given that the cars are so new and so different, that one or two cars on the grid will have got it really badly wrong. And they will have a terribly painful year. 

"I would imagine that all of us to some degree will have left things on the table that we just didn't anticipate. And we will look at other cars and think, 'Oh, why didn't we think of that?' 

"Then we'll be scrambling around to try to get that idea onto our car as fast as possible, so that we can claw our way, from whatever position we land in that first race, forwards. Or, if we're lucky enough to be in front, to keep the attacking wolves behind us. 

"It's going to be quite a rush and definitely something that's going to keep us all from having too much sleep for the whole of the season." 

George Russell is joining Hamilton at Mercedes this year, replacing Valtteri Bottas after impressing with Williams. 

A "detailed analysis" of the controversial ending to last month's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has started, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) has confirmed.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth title when he was beaten by Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the final lap of the season-ending grand prix on December 12.

Mercedes were furious with how race rules were applied in a safety-car situation and challenged the result, believing Hamilton was unfairly prevented from winning the race and the championship when Verstappen passed him with only a few corners remaining.

The German constructors launched two challenges that were both rejected by the FIA, with Mercedes giving notice of an intention to appeal. However, the team eventually decide not to proceed down that route following discussions with F1 and the FIA.

On Thursday, the FIA released a statement via Twitter outlining the next steps in their analysis of the situation, saying: "Following the decision of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 15 December 2021, the FIA administration, under the leadership Mohammed Ben Sulayem, has started the detailed analysis of the events of the last Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

"The FIA President launched a consultation with all F1 teams on various issues, including this one.

"On January 19, an item on the agenda of the Sporting Advisory Committee will be dedicated to the use of the Safety Car. The following stage will be a shared discussion with all F1 drivers.

"The outcome of the detailed analysis will be presented to the F1 Commission in February and final decisions will be announced at the World Motor Sport Council in Bahrain on 18 March."

There has been recent speculation since the end of the season that Hamilton could retire from motor racing, with the 36-year-old and his team left distraught by the outcome, and reports suggest that the Briton is waiting to see the outcome of an inquiry.

Lewis Hamilton is relaxing at the ski slopes and doing "fine" after losing out to Max Verstappen in the battle for the Formula One title, his brother Nicolas has said.

Seven-time champion Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth title when he was beaten in a controversial finish to the second-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 12.

Mercedes were furious with how race rules were applied in a safety-car situation and challenged the result, believing Hamilton was unfairly denied victory in the race and the championship when Dutchman Verstappen passed him on the last lap.

The crushing blow has led to speculation Hamilton could retire from motor racing, with the 36-year-old and his team left distraught by the outcome.

Former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone last week cast doubt on whether Hamilton would return to the sport in 2022, when he is due to partner George Russell for Mercedes.

Since being denied another title, Hamilton has gone quiet on social media and stopped following the select few Instagram accounts that he previously watched.

But Nicolas Hamilton says his superstar brother is merely unwinding with family, saying on livestreaming service Twitch: "Lewis is fine. I think he's just having a bit of a social media break which I don't blame him for.

"Social media can be a very toxic place. But he's cool though. He's fine. Yeah, he's all right. He's watching the kids ski at the moment."

Hamilton also missed out in the F1 team principals' driver of the year vote, coming in second to champion Verstappen.

The result of a poll of team chiefs was revealed on the official F1 website on Monday, with Red Bull star Verstappen top of that particular podium too.

With principals appraising drivers based on the race system, where first place earns 25 points and 10th takes only one, Verstappen scored a total of 213 points, with Hamilton scoring 192 in second place.


Team principals' driver of the year result: 1. Max Verstappen 213, 2. Lewis Hamilton 192, 3. Lando Norris 110, 4. Carlos Sainz 85, 5. Charles Leclerc 70, 6. Fernando Alonso 69, 7. Pierre Gasly 64, 8. George Russell 44, 9. Valtteri Bottas 43, 10. Esteban Ocon 41.

Bernie Ecclestone believes Lewis Hamilton could be poised to retire from Formula One after the heartache of losing the world championship in Abu Dhabi.

Long-time F1 supremo Ecclestone, who left his role as chief executive in January 2017, said he had spoken to Hamilton's father, Anthony, since the British driver was pipped to title glory by Max Verstappen.

Although he gained no direct insight into the seven-time world champion's future plans from that call, Ecclestone told Swiss newspaper Blick he thinks Hamilton may have made his mind up to quit.

"I don't know it, but I don't think he's coming back," Ecclestone said. "His disappointment is too great. And you can somehow understand it. Now it would be the time, with seven world championship titles like Michael Schumacher, to tackle his dream of becoming a fashion entrepreneur."

He said of his telephone call with Hamilton's father: "I immediately felt that he wouldn't answer a question about his son's future. So we only talked about business."

Mercedes superstar Hamilton, who turns 37 in January, was struck by deep disappointment when he was denied a record-breaking eighth F1 title in controversial fashion at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 12.

Verstappen, on new tyres, passed race leader Hamilton on the final lap after the safety car had been deployed when Nicholas Latifi crashed. Hamilton and Verstappen had been tied on points coming into the race, making it a straight shoot-out for the championship.

The decision-making from race director Michael Masi that allowed for one lap of racing in such circumstances came in for criticism, particularly from the Mercedes team, but appeals to race stewards failed to change the result.

Hamilton's Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has since said he hopes the man whose F1 career began in 2007 will not quit the sport after this setback.

The former McLaren star is due to partner George Russell next season, with the campaign scheduled to begin in Bahrain in March.

Hamilton is the only driver to achieve both 100 F1 poles and a century of race wins, and Wolff said he "would very much hope" that his star driver would be back for more in the new year.

Speaking last week, after Mercedes decided against taking an appeal to the courts, Wolff said: "It is going to take a long time for us to digest what has happened. I don't think we will ever get over it. That's not possible – and certainly not as a driver."

Ecclestone suggested Hamilton "could only lose" if he returns to the cockpit in 2022, and the 91-year-old has been impressed by the rise of Verstappen.

"With him, Hamilton has finally found an equal opponent after many years," Ecclestone said.

Nicholas Latifi has revealed the "hate and abuse" sent to him on social media following his crash at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Williams driver Latifi skidded into the barriers late in the final race of the Formula One season on December 12, resulting in the safety car being called onto the track.

Latifi had been tussling with Mick Schumacher for 15th place, but the incident had huge repercussions at the front of the race.

Lewis Hamilton held a healthy lead over Max Verstappen at the time and looked all set to claim a record eighth world title.

Yet with the gap closed after Latifi's crash, the FIA contentiously allowed several lapped cars to overtake the safety car, meaning Hamilton and Verstappen had a one-lap sprint for the championship, with the Red Bull driver, who was on fresher tyres, coming out on top.

It will go down as one of the most memorable, and controversial, moments in F1 history, but Latifi has now confirmed he received abuse, including death threats, for his incidental part.

In a statement published on his official website, Latifi said: "I've purposely been staying away from social media to kind of let things settle down from the events of the last race.

"A lot has been made of the situation that came about after my retirement in Abu Dhabi. I've received thousands of messages to my social media accounts – publicly and via DMs. Most have been supportive, but there's been a lot of hate and abuse, too.

"This isn't some scripted statement, but rather me speaking my mind in the hope that this maybe sparks another conversation about online bullying and the drastic consequences it can have on people. Using social media as a channel to attack somebody with messages of hate, abuse and threats of violence is shocking – and something I am calling out.

"Going back to the race weekend, as soon as the chequered flag dropped, I knew how things were likely to play out on social media. The fact that I felt it would be best if I deleted Instagram and Twitter on my phone for a few days says all we need to know about how cruel the online world can be.

"The ensuing hate, abuse, and threats on social media were not really a surprise to me as it's just the stark reality of the world we live in right now. I'm no stranger to being talked about negatively online, I think every sportsperson who competes on the world stage knows they're under extreme scrutiny and this comes with the territory sometimes.

"But as we've seen time and time again, across all different sports, it only takes one incident at the wrong time to have things completely blown out of proportion and bring out the worst in people who are so-called 'fans' of the sport. What shocked me was the extreme tone of the hate, abuse, and even the death threats I received.

"Thankfully, I'm comfortable enough in my own skin, and I've been in this world long enough that I can do a pretty good job of just letting any negativity wash over me. 

"To all the fans and people that did have my back during this whole situation, I want to say a huge thank you. I've seen and read a lot of your messages and they are much appreciated. It's nice to know I have so many people supporting me."

Mercedes initially appealed against the result of the race, but subsequently withdrew their complaints.

Max Verstappen says he sees no reason why Lewis Hamilton would walk away from Formula One after the Dutchman controversially dethroned him in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton looked destined to win a record eighth F1 title as he dominated the decisive season-ending race at the Yas Marina Circuit last Sunday, having made a great start to pass pole-sitter Verstappen.

There was a dramatic late twist, though, as the safety car was deployed after Nicholas Latifi crashed and Red Bull called Verstappen in for fresh tyres in one final throw of the dice.

Race director Michael Masi then made a contentious call to let the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen – running first and second but separated by a series of lapped rivals – pass the safety car and allow one lap of racing, opening the door for the Dutchman to snatch his maiden title.

Mercedes launched a double protest of the outcome, which was dismissed, and then lodged an intention to appeal against the stewards' decision, before finally accepting Verstappen's triumph on Thursday.

Silver Arrows team principal Toto Wolff said Hamilton was disillusioned after being "robbed" of victory and the Brit will never get over what happened in Abu Dhabi, stating that there were no guarantees the 36-year-old would be back to try to regain the title next year.

Yet Verstappen would be surprised if Hamilton decides to call time on his incredible career.

He said: "I can understand the first few days after a race like that you're not happy.

"But you should also understand this is racing and these things can happen. He should just look back at what he has achieved already.

"That should give him a lot of comfort, and it should also be that drive to keep on going because he is still trying to challenge for that eighth title and for sure he can do that next year, so I don't see any reason to give up just now."

Verstappen added: "I don't feel sorry [for Hamilton] but I can understand that it can be very painful. But at the end of the day, he also won a championship like that."

Toto Wolff has told of Lewis Hamilton's hurt at the contentious nature of his Formula One title failure but hopes the seven-time world champion will not quit the sport.

Hamilton looked to have done enough to beat Max Verstappen to the championship on Sunday, leading with one lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – and the season – remaining.

Despite Verstappen's pole, Hamilton had forged ahead in just the second F1 title race to see the top two level on points heading into the final grand prix of the year.

But race director Michael Masi made a controversial call to let the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen – running first and second but separated by a series of lapped rivals – pass a late safety car and allow one lap of racing.

Verstappen, on fresher tyres, passed Hamilton to secure his first title, becoming the first driver ever to win the championship by passing his direct rival on the final lap of the season.

Mercedes launched a double protest of the result, which was dismissed, and then appealed, before finally accepting Verstappen's triumph on Thursday.

Team principal Wolff confirmed to reporters Hamilton had played a part in those decisions, having seen a contentious finale put a huge dampener on another historic season in which he became the first man to both 100 F1 poles and a century of race wins.

Could that painful final chapter in 2021 put Hamilton off returning in 2022 for another tilt at the outright F1 championship record? For now, he remains tied with Michael Schumacher on seven titles.

"I would very much hope that Lewis continues racing, because he's the greatest driver of all times," Wolff said.

"When you look at it from the point of view of the last four races, he dominated them. On Sunday, there wasn't even a doubt who won the race. And that was worthy of winning the world championship."

He added: "It is going to take a long time for us to digest what has happened on Sunday. I don't think we will ever get over it. That's not possible – and certainly not as a driver."

Despite Mercedes' protests, Wolff said they had not wanted "to win a world championship in the courtroom".

Having initially kept his counsel as the team went through the appeal process, Wolff on Thursday accused Masi of a "freestyle reading of the rules" that "left Lewis like a sitting duck".

The Silver Arrows at least had the consolation of an eighth constructors' championship – all of which have come in the past eight seasons. For 2022, George Russell will replace Valtteri Bottas.

Mercedes have withdrawn their appeal against the result of Sunday's contentious Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that saw Max Verstappen pip Lewis Hamilton to the Formula One drivers' title.

Hamilton had built up a healthy lead over his Red Bull rival in the season finale, with both men having entered the race level on points, until a controversial late safety car period was followed by Verstappen overtaking the Mercedes driver on the final lap.

The German constructors launched two challenges that were both rejected by the FIA, with Mercedes giving notice of an intention to appeal.

However, the team said in a statement they will not proceed down that route following discussions with F1 and governing body the FIA.

Mercedes said: "We left Abu Dhabi in disbelief of what we had just witnessed. Of course, it's part of the game to lose a race, but it's something different when you lose faith in racing.

"Together with Lewis, we have deliberated carefully over how to respond to the events at the Formula 1 season finale. We have always been guided by our love of this sport and we believe that every competition should be won on merit.

"In the race on Sunday many felt, us included, that the way things unfolded was not right. The reason we protested the race result on Sunday was because the safety car regulations were applied in a new way that affected the race result, after Lewis had been in a commanding lead and on course to win the world championship.

"We appealed in the interest of sporting fairness, and we have since been in a constructive dialogue with the FIA and Formula 1 to create clarity for the future, so that all competitors know the rules under which they are racing, and how they will be enforced.

"Thus, we welcome the decision by the FIA to install a commission to thoroughly analyse what happened in Abu Dhabi and to improve the robustness of rules, governance and decision making in Formula 1. We also welcome that they have invited the teams and drivers to take part.

"The Mercedes-AMG Petronas team will actively work with this commission to build a better Formula 1 – for every team and every fan who loves this sport as much as we do. We will hold the FIA accountable for this process and we hereby withdraw our appeal."

Hamilton had built up an 11-second advantage over Verstappen, but the race swung in dramatic circumstances when the Williams of Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barriers four laps from the end, presenting Verstappen with a chance to pit for fresh tyres.

An opportunity to make the pass presented itself when race director Michael Masi controversially ruled lapped cars could overtake the safety car before it headed back to the garage to leave one final lap of racing between the contenders.

Verstappen made the pass, with Masi later telling Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff: "We went car racing."

Hamilton is thought to have been the key influencer in Mercedes' decision, with the seven-time champion said to have wanted to avoid the destination of the title being decided in the courts.

Mercedes continued their statement with a gracious statement to first-time champion Verstappen, while hailing the continued excellence of Hamilton, who was this week knighted in the United Kingdom.

"To Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing: we would like to express our sincere respect for your achievements this season. You made this Formula 1 Championship title fight truly epic," they added.

"Max, we congratulate you and your entire team. We look forward to taking the fight to you on the track next season.

"And lastly, even though this drivers' championship did not end the way we hoped, we could not be prouder of our team.

"Lewis, you are the greatest racer in the history of Formula 1 and you drove your heart out for every lap of this incredible season. You're a flawless sportsman on and off the track and you delivered a faultless performance.

"As a pure competitor and as a role model for millions around the world, we salute you."

Mercedes have withdrawn their appeal against the result of Sunday's contentious Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that saw Max Verstappen pip Lewis Hamilton to the Formula One drivers' title.

Hamilton had built up a healthy lead over his Red Bull rival in the season finale, with both men having entered the race level on points, until a controversial late safety car period was followed by Verstappen overtaking the Mercedes driver on the final lap.

The German constructors launched two challenges that were both rejected by the FIA, with Mercedes giving notice of an intention to appeal against the decisions.

However, the team said in a statement they will not proceed down that route following discussions with F1 and governing body the FIA.

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