The FIA has insisted that Lewis Hamilton is not being singled out for his Qatar GP track walk, after his first-lap retirement.
Hamilton was found to have crossed the track during the Qatar Grand Prix, while the race was neutralised under the Safety Car for his own retirement due to a collision between himself and Mercedes team-mate George Russell.
The seven-time World Champion walked across the track in order to return to the pits, something which landed him in hot water as he was given a €50,000 fine (€25,000 suspended) and a reprimand for the lapse.
FIA re-opens investigation into Lewis Hamilton track walk
However, with the matter seemingly done and dusted, a few days later the FIA announced that they would be re-examining the incident due to Hamilton’s prominence as a sportsman.
“The FIA is revisiting the incident in which Lewis Hamilton crossed a live track during the Qatar Grand Prix,” a spokesperson said.
“The FIA notes that Lewis was apologetic during the subsequent stewards hearing in to the incident and acknowledged that the crossing was a serious safety breach.
“However, in view of his role model status, the FIA is concerned about the impression his actions may have created on younger drivers.”
The wording of the statement – which seemed to single out Hamilton due to his status – has been met with outcry and concern from many pundits.
But the governing body has moved to assuage any fears that the British driver has been unfairly picked out, with the FIA telling PlanetF1.com that when Hamilton is referred to as a role model, it’s due to his status as a racer in motorsport’s top category, meaning any F1 driver will have the duty to set an example for younger drivers.
It’s the second incident from the Qatar weekend the FIA has decided to look back over. While not safety-related, Lance Stroll’s shove on his trainer after a disappointing Friday qualifying session was looked at again by the FIA’s Compliance Officer, with the matter put to bed after an apology from the Canadian.
“We can confirm that the FIA Compliance Officer has received an apology from Lance Stroll,” said the governing body in a statement last Friday, “regarding his actions during the 2023 FIA Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix.
“The Compliance Officer has noted this apology and issued a written warning, reminding Lance of his responsibilities as a competitor bound by the FIA Code of Ethics and other FIA ethical and conduct guidelines set forth by the sporting regulations.
“The FIA maintains a zero-tolerance stance against misconduct and condemns any actions that may lead to physical harassment.”
With the FIA proving that it is possible to re-open an investigation into a driver’s actions without causing controversy, it’s imperative the governing body now finds a way to smooth over a mess it has created by writing a statement labelled “clumsy” by Alex Brundle: “Ok I get it… But ‘Due to his role model status’ – Is unnecessary/clumsy wording.”
Sam Cooper: How does the FIA define a role model?
PlanetF1.com’s Sam Cooper questioned what defines a ‘role model’ in the eyes of the FIA.
“The reopening of the case is not the most troubling part, it’s the wording,” Cooper said.
“As part of their explanation as to why they were taking a second look, a spokesperson for the FIA said ‘In view of his role model status, the FIA is concerned about the impression his actions may have created on younger drivers.
“This leads to the question – how does the FIA define a role model? Is it years in the sport? Social media followers maybe? Wins? Titles? By virtue of being a Formula 1 driver, their faces are shared across millions of TVs every week, so do rookies Logan Sargeant and Oscar Piastri also count as role models, too?
“Last season, a four-time World Champion committed a similarly dangerous offence by driving a moped around the track with his helmet above his head, and yet was Sebastian Vettel’s position as a “role model” cited in the explanation of the €5,000 fine he received?
“Look further back in the history of Formula 1 and you could find a litany of incidents of high-profile drivers doing something potentially dangerous and yet never before has their “role model” status come into it.”