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Lewis Hamilton

What's triggered Hamilton's jewellery U-turn?

Lewis Hamilton appeared to be ready to challenge the FIA over their jewellery ban, showing up for the Miami press conference dripping in rings and necklaces. But, just hours later, Mercedes signed the declaration that he would wear no removable jewellery. What changed his mind?

Hamilton Jewelry Miami
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To news overview © XPB Images

Was there ever a faster U-turn in public position than Lewis Hamilton's comment, "If [the FIA] stop me [over ignoring the jewellery ban], then so be it. We have spare drivers, so we're ready and prepared for the weekend", and the seven-time champion’s subsequent removal of the glitzy stuff?

True, one or two items, which cannot be removed without clinical intervention, remain attached (for now) to Hamilton’s anatomy - he did not reveal exactly where - but the eight rings, four necklaces and three watches he had so lavishly displayed during the 11:00 Friday FIA press conference were invisible by the time he was strapped into his car for the 14:30 first practice session.

In the interim, he'd texted with FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem and consulted with FIA Medical Delegate Dr. Sean Petherbridge about the remaining items. The bottom line was that the FIA granted Hamilton a three-week exemption, during which time the Mercedes driver would need to undergo a medical examination and an informed decision would be taken as to their removal.

			© XPB Images
	© XPB Images

When did the jewellery issue first arise?

Arguments had raged back and forth since the Australian Grand Prix, when FIA F1 Race Director Niels Wittich announced a clampdown on the wearing of non-homologated clothing and jewellery by drivers while in the car, at the time decreeing that any offending drivers had a grace period of four weeks to comply. Plenty of notice, then – all of which makes Hamilton’s intransigence all the more baffling.

At the heart of the matter lay not a sensationalist battle of wills, but the clashing principles of safety on one hand and personal freedom on the other, with Ben Sulayem, installed in global motoring's hottest of hot seats in December last year, arguing that any non-enforcement of a regulation first introduced in 2005 was a matter for his predecessors, not him.

Hamilton's riposte was a suggestion that the FIA and F1 should concentrate on bigger issues – which is, of course, well and good, but the removal of jewellery or wearing of the correct underwear is hardly a time-consuming matter.

To ensure compliance with the regulations, the FIA had inserted two extra clauses - referring specifically to fireproof clothing and jewellery - into the self-certification forms that all F1 teams are required to submit as part of the pre-race homologation process. The Miami Grand Prix was the first event under the revised documents, without which no car is permitted to take to the track for an official session.

Asked on Thursday for his opinion of the matter by RacingNews365.com, Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff was clear: "I think it's important to remember why wearing any kind of jewellery is not permitted in the regulations, and that is to avoid injury.

"Where do you draw the line? It can cause an injury and I think all of us don't want to see an accident, freak accident, where suddenly there is a follow-on injury from jewellery. That's why the FIA, at the moment, is trying to draw a line in the sand. I understand where they're coming from."

Refusal to comply opened the door for protests or punishments

Yet, despite his team boss' pragmatic comments, Hamilton refused to comply - marking the first time in recent memory they have disagreed so openly - causing Mercedes to submit incomplete documents to the FIA Technical Delegate: as recorded in FIA Document 12 issued at 12:32 local time. This left the entry open to protest from other teams and potential exclusion should Car #44 take to the track.

Exactly 90 minutes later, FIA Document 14 stated: "The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team has now submitted a completely filled-in self-scrutineering sheet for the 2022 Miami GP", leaving the way open for Hamilton to compete, in turn depriving reserve driver (Mercedes Formula E champion) Nyck de Vries, from making his F1 race debut. In the interim, Hamilton was clinically examined and exemption granted.

Clearly, reason had gotten to Hamilton, but what form did it take? It was pointed out to the seven-time champion that he is role model to millions of youngsters, many of whom race (or hope to) in karts and other junior categories. Impressionable kids could well believe that wearing bling while behind the wheel is a pre-requisite for success, leaving them open to emulation and thus potential injury in the event of a crash.

Thus, Hamilton agreed to submit to the medical examination for this event and removal of any affixed bling by Monaco three weeks hence. According to FIA sources, no further exemptions will be granted thereafter. Matter diffused – and, if it ever was a battle of wills, Hamilton knows better than to take on the FIA over safety issues.

Also interesting:

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RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour and Thomas Maher look back over the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where Red Bull triumphed, Ferrari hit trouble and Mercedes struggled.

F1 2022 Miami Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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