Lewis Hamilton showed up to the Friday briefing ahead of Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix this weekend adorned with three necklaces, three watches and a ring on every finger. Even if he said nothing about it, that would have been a pretty effective nonverbal indication of where the seven-time champion stands on the FIA’s recent jewelry crackdown. Still, he didn’t hesitate to explain, reminding the media that Mercedes has a backup driver, and Miami is a city with many fun things to do.
These were Hamilton’s words, as reported by Racer:
“I couldn’t get any more jewelry on today!” Hamilton said. “I feel like it’s almost like a step backwards, if you think about the steps we are taking as a sport, and the more important causes that we need to be focused on.
“I think we’ve made really great strides as a sport. This is such a small thing. I’ve been in the sport for 16 years and I’ve been wearing jewelry for 16 years. In the car I only ever have my earrings on and my nose ring, which I can’t even remove.
“It seems unnecessary for us to get into this spat. So I will try to communicate and work with Mohammed [Ben Sulayem, FIA president]. I’m here to try to be an ally of the sport, of Mohammed and F1.
The champ also went on to describe a piece of jewelry that wasn’t visible. “[O]ne I can’t really explain where it is–but it’s platinum, so it’s not magnetic. It’s never been a safety issue in the past. In 16 years, I’ve had so many MRI scans and not had to take out the platinum.”
The Silver Arrows driver also doesn’t seem particularly worried about the potential repercussions:
“If they stop me, then so be it. We’ve got a spare driver so we’re all ready and prepped for the weekend. There’s lots to do in the city anyway! It’ll be good either way.”
Hamilton added that he’s willing to sign a waiver absolving the FIA of responsibility if it would please the sporting body, and that he had a phone chat earlier in the day with the FIA president, though it didn’t seem to resolve anything.
The ban on drivers wearing jewelry was part of a larger edict regarding under-suit dress passed down by race director Niels Wittich ahead of the Australian Grand Prix last month. Cue cringe comments from multiple competitors about going commando in overalls and whether or not Max Verstappen has a nipple piercing, among other topics. Everyone sort of brushed it off as a joke.
But then Formula E went to Monaco, and two drivers—Pascal Wehrlein and Mitch Evans—were each handed a penalty point when they were found to have been wearing chains during the race. With all due respect to Wehrlein and Evans, they don’t command quite the influence Hamilton does, so it’ll be interesting to see how Ben Sulayem and the FIA respond.
This, of course, is not the first time Lewis Hamilton has run afoul of the FIA’s dress code, not that he’s ever been especially bothered by the consequences. Judging by comments from his fellow drivers, he’s not alone. Pierre Gasly said he carries a religious item when he’s driving, and he wouldn’t feel comfortable without it in the car. “At the end of the day we have the responsibility to go out there and put our lives at risk,” the AlphaTauri driver said during the same briefing. “It should be a personal choice.”
Wittich’s statement about the danger of wearing jewelry cited the potential to hinder medical intervention or snag while tending to a driver. The FIA will claim that the personal safety of all competitors is its paramount concern on any given race weekend; then again, that very same organization also reminded teams and drivers of the “possible consequences of not racing” while under the threat of terrorist attack. So, yeah—I can’t blame Hamilton and Gasly for wanting to make the choice for themselves, and feeling as though the sport has more pressing matters at hand.
Updated Friday May 6, 2022, 4:35 p.m. ET: On Friday the FIA gave Hamilton a two-race exemption allowing him to continue wearing jewelry that he “could not easily remove,” per Motorsport.com. The FIA reportedly reiterated to Hamilton that the rule was about safety, not personal expression, and Hamilton agreed to race without any jewelry in Miami save for those exempted items. Hamilton’s exemption expires at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Also, this happened: