Japanese GP: Mercedes withdraw Max Verstappen complaint

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Japan
Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton is 33 points behind leader Nico Rosberg after finishing third in Japan

Mercedes have withdrawn a protest lodged against Max Verstappen for his defence of second place from Lewis Hamilton in the Japanese Grand Prix.

Mercedes claimed Red Bull's Verstappen drove "erratically and in a dangerous manner" in contravention of rules in the move on the penultimate lap.

The protest was lodged at 18:27 local time. At 19:12 it was scheduled to be heard at the next race in America.

At 19:50, governing body the FIA announced Mercedes had withdrawn it.

A spokesman for Mercedes said the decision had been made "once it became clear it would be dragged out to Austin, in the interests of establishing a final result this evening".

Red Bull's Max Verstappen (left) and Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton (right)
Hamilton (right) tried to overtake Verstappen on the penultimate lap

Earlier, Hamilton had posted on Twitter: "There is no protest from either myself or Mercedes. One idiot said we have but it's not true."

The tweet was later deleted.

He later added on Twitter: "There is no protest from myself. Just heard the team had but I told them it is not what we do. We are champions, we move on. End of!"

His remarks are a reference to the fact Mercedes tied up a third consecutive constructors' championship title in Japan, following Nico Rosberg's win and Hamilton's third place.

Lewis Hamilton
In a BBC Sport poll, 46% thought Hamilton was cracking under the pressure of the title race

Hamilton said over the radio after the move: "Verstappen moved under braking."

The drivers have a gentleman's agreement that they will not change direction in the braking zone, although it is not outlawed.

The protest is under article 27.5 of the sporting regulations, which states: "At no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person."

The protest says Verstappen's driving "forced [Hamilton] to take evasive action".

Verstappen, who was spoken to about the incident by F1 director Charlie Whiting after the race, waited in the middle of the track before moving to defend only when he saw which side Hamilton was going to attack.

It is the same behaviour with which he upset Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen during the Hungarian Grand Prix in July.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said: "We know now Max moves under braking but it is not for me to judge."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said he felt the move was "hard but fair".

Lewis Hamilton on Twitter