Lewis Hamilton undoing his safety belt while driving, according to FIA racing director Michael Masi, is “not acceptable” behavior when it comes to setting an example for adolescents.
The FIA fined Hamilton €5,000 and suspended an additional €20,000 until the end of 2022 for releasing his safety belt on the cooldown lap after winning the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, citing that Formula One drivers are role models and should be “sending a message” throughout motorsport.
The FIA clarified in a written ruling that they are “sympathetic to the need to celebrate” following a win. “It is fundamentally unsafe to undo the seatbelts while the car is going,” says one expert. For an unrestrained occupant, slow speeds in these cars are really fast.
“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.”
The FIA’s intention, Masi reiterated, is not to prevent drivers from celebrating after the race, as loosening their harnesses is acceptable, but entirely detaching them is a safety problem.
“Obviously, everyone knows that rule. It’s been discussed before as well, probably, I’ll guess around 18 months ago,” Masi said 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 €50,000 for touching Max Verstappen’s Mercedes in parc ferme conditions on Friday, the same weekend his title challenger was penalised €50,000.
The lower amount imposed on Hamilton was due to the fact that there had been no precedent for this type of incident in recent years, and a punishment was determined appropriately, according to Masi.
“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.”
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