Explained: What is Formula 1’s jewellery ban rule and why Lewis Hamilton is defying it

Formula 1’s governing body FIA stirred an unexpected controversy at last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne when one of its new race directors Nels Wittich informed the grid of the body’s intention to limit ornaments that a driver wears

File photo of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. AP

Formula 1’s governing body FIA stirred an unexpected controversy at last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne when one of its new race directors Nels Wittich informed the grid of the body’s intention to limit ornaments that a driver wears underneath his fireproof suit before getting into the car.

And with a limited number of drivers wearing jewellery, it wasn’t hard to guess that Lewis Hamilton would be the first in the firing line as far as adhering to the rules is concerned. For some, this was also another instance of how the seven-time world champion has allegedly been targeted by FIA time and again and went on to raise questions over the need for such a rule.

What does FIA rule states?

As per the Appendix L of the FIA’s International Sporting Code, drivers are unable to wear any material underneath
their suit and must wear fireproof underwear that adheres to the strict standard.

The full wording of the rule, as stated by Wittich before the Australian GP, read: “The wearing of jewellery in the form of body piercing or metal neck chains is prohibited during the competition and may therefore be checked before the start.”

While Wittich reminded the grid of the reinforcement of the rule, reports cited that it won’t come into effect immediately and drivers will be allowed a number of races before adjusting to it. Once instated, drivers are likely to face punishment in fine or reprimand if they don’t adhere to the rules.

The rule has been actually in place since 2004 but was never enforced. However, the new race director Wittich — who replaced Michael Masi after last year’s title decider controversy — is quite eager on enforcing the rule to ensure high safety standards while citing 2020 Bahrain GP’s Romain Grosjean’s fiery crash.

Why Lewis Hamilton is defying it?

Even if we assume Wittich’s thoughts are pure with the rule, Hamilton certainly doesn’t agree with it and said that it’s a step too far. In fact, Hamilton went on to race in Melbourne wearing his piercings and finished fourth.

Post the race, the 37-year-old Briton also added that he has no intentions to comply with the FIA request as some of them are quite difficult to take out.

“I don’t have any plans on removing (jewellery),” he told the media. “I feel there are personal things, you should be able to be who you are. There’s stuff that I can’t move, so I can’t even take these out.

“These ones on my right ear, they’re literally welded in. I will have to get them chopped off or something like that, so they will be staying.”

What do other members of the grid think about it?

Hamilton’s team Mercedes has also backed their star driver on the matter as team principal Toto Wolff felt it’s a misstep by Wittich to force Hamilton into an unnecessary battle.

“Is this jewellery ban a battle he (Wittich) needs to have at this stage? How he has run the first few races has been respectful, solid and he hasn’t put a single foot wrong,” Wolff told the Press Association.
“If his involvement on the issue of jewellery turns out to be his biggest unfortunate misstep I would take it 1,000 times over.”

His Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner only saw the funny side of the rule.

“I certainly won’t be checking our drivers underwear for compliance, ” quipped Horner.

Hamilton’s direct rival and current world champion Max Verstappen also found the rule farcical. It was evident during his conversation with the Briton during an Australian GP press conference as the Dutchman said “he will be heavier if he wears piercing“.

However, Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri found the topic controversial.

“It was quite a long discussion [and] a few people have changed some of their underwear protocols,” Piastri, who attended the driver briefing, told Sky Sports. “It’s a contentious topic because you’re going commando if you’re not wearing your own.”

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