FIA: Hamilton belt breach sends unacceptable message

Date published: November 18 2021 - Henry Valantine

Lewis Hamilton leads in Sao Paulo GP. Brazil November 2021.

FIA race director Michael Masi says Lewis Hamilton undoing his safety belt while driving is “not acceptable” behaviour in setting an example to youngsters.

Hamilton was fined €5,000 for releasing his safety belt on the cooldown lap after winning the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, with an extra €20,000 suspended until the end of 2022 – the FIA citing that Formula 1 drivers are role models and should be “sending a message” throughout the rest of motorsport.

In their written ruling on the matter, the FIA clarified they are “sympathetic to the desire to celebrate” after a win. However, “it is fundamentally unsafe to undo the seatbelts while the car is in motion. Slow speeds in these cars are very fast for an unrestrained occupant.

“Further, F1 drivers set the example for junior categories,” the statement continued. “It is critical that junior category drivers learn the importance of using all the safety devices of the car at all times.”

Lewis Hamilton in front of the 'number 1' board. Brazil November 2021.

Masi reiterated the intention of the FIA is not to halt drivers celebrating – as loosening their harnesses is permitted after the race – but detaching them fully is a safety issue.

“Obviously, everyone knows that rule. It’s been discussed before as well, probably, I’ll guess around 18 months ago,” Masi told Motorsport.com on the subject.

“And then I’m well aware it was discussed in Charlie’s [Whiting] time. Drivers were reminded that obviously on cooldown laps, there’s no problem loosening their belts but they need to remain fully attached.

“And it’s a safety item. I think the stewards have made it quite clear in their decision that it’s not about stopping celebrations at all.

“But at the pinnacle of motorsport it’s a safety issue, but also it’s sending a message all the way through that that type of behaviour is not acceptable.”

Hamilton was fined on the same weekend his title rival Max Verstappen’s wallet was stung to the tune of €50,000 for touching the Briton’s Mercedes in parc ferme conditions on Friday.

Masi added the smaller level of fine imposed on Hamilton came as a result of there being no precedent for this kind of incident of late, and a punishment was set accordingly.

 

“I think the stewards sort of tried to find something around, but with the panel they’ve got they couldn’t find anything in recent times,” Masi clarified.

“And that’s why there’s a large part of it suspended until the end of 2022 for that exact reason. If you’re suddenly starting to do it regularly, let’s call it, then different purpose.”