SUZUKA, Japan -- Mercedes has withdrawn the protest it lodged against Max Verstappen at the Japanese Grand Prix, allowing the FIA to publish the official race classification four and half hours after the chequered flag fell at Suzuka.
In a bizarre turn of events, Mercedes initially protested Verstappen's defence of second place from Lewis Hamilton at Suzuka's final chicane, arguing that the Dutch teenager drove erratically and in a dangerous manner. However, by the time the protest had been lodged and the stewards convened for a hearing, both Hamilton and Verstappen had left the circuit and were unable to give evidence.
Under FIA procedure, the stewards decided to defer the investigation to the U.S. Grand Prix, meaning the result of the Japanese Grand Prix was set to remain provisional until the next round in two weeks. At that point Mercedes withdrew the protest, just one hour and 20 minutes after it had been officially lodged.
The plot appeared to thicken soon after when Hamilton took to Twitter to say: "There is no protest from either myself or @MercedesAMGF1. One idiot said we have but it's not true. Max drove well, end of. We move on."
It is not clear who Hamilton was referring to as an "idiot", but the tweet was later removed and replaced with the following post.
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!— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) October 9, 2016
Asked why the protest had been withdrawn, a Mercedes spokesperson said: "We have done this in the interests of establishing a final official result this evening once it became apparent that the hearing could not be concluded today."
As a result, Verstappen will keep his second place finish at Suzuka ahead of Hamilton in third.