Friday, May 27, 2022

Lewis Hamilton unhappy with F1 ban on jewelry, but removes earrings despite threats to sit out

Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton used a Friday morning press conference to rail against a ban on jewelry by the FIA, but later backtracked following a series of discussions with FIA officials, according to a report by the Press Association. Hamilton will now remove his ear piercings for this weekend hours after indicating he was willing to sit out the Miami Grand Prix in defiance of F1’s rules.

FIA officials issued a notice to competitors on Thursday, declaring that “the wearing of jewellery (sic) in the form of body piercing or metal neck chains is prohibited during the competition and may therefore be checked before the start” as a reminder of a recent crackdown the sanctioning body has made on drivers wearing jewelry.

Hamilton has expressed that he feels unfairly targeted by the rule, and as if to make himself quite clear showed up to his press conference wearing seemingly as many rings, necklaces, bracelets, and watches as he could carry.

“I feel like it’s almost like a step backwards, if you think about the steps we’re taking as a sport, and the more important issues and causes that we need to be focused on,” Hamilton said. “… This is such a small thing. I’ve been in the sport for 16 years, I’ve been wearing jewelry for 16 years. In the car I only ever have my earrings on and my nose ring, of which I can’t even remove. It seems unnecessary for us to get into this spat.”

Hamilton then went on to indicate that he was willing to sit out the Miami Grand Prix, stating that his team had a relief driver (Nick de Vries) and that “there’s lots to do in the city anyway.” However, he later agreed to take out his earrings while receiving a two-race medical exemption for his nose ring, which cannot be easily removed.

The FIA has had a ban on drivers wearing jewelry in the cockpit in place for several years — The rationale being that jewelry presents a safety hazard which can hinder medical intervention and emergency extrication among other issues in the event of a serious accident. But after several years of lax enforcement, the rule is now being much more strictly enforced by F1 race director Niels Wittich and FIA president Mohamed ben Sulayem.

Last week, the FIA came down hard on Formula E drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Mitch Evans for wearing necklaces in their cockpits, giving them a suspended fine of 1,000 euros and putting a point on their licenses.

Hamilton’s being at-odds with FIA officials over the jewelry ban presents an off-track distraction from what has been a terrible start to the 2022 season for the seven-time world champion. After finishing on the podium in the season opener at Bahrain, Hamilton has run well below his standard and last week finished a lap down in 13th at Imola. Hamilton enters Miami seventh in the championship standings, a full 58 points back of Charles Leclerc.

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