Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton will race in Sunday’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix after Formula 1 swerved a showdown with the Mercedes driver over their ban on piercings and jewelery.
- Race organizers said body piercings posed a health and safety risk
- Hamilton expressed his dissatisfaction at a press conference by wearing several watches and chains
- Formula 1 officials have given Hamilton a two-race exemption
Race director Niels Wittich had issued a reminder to all teams and officials that wearing body piercings and metal neck chains was prohibited during competition for safety reasons and could be checked.
Hamilton, the sport’s most successful driver and biggest name in America, has said he cannot remove some of his piercings and had suggested on Friday that he could face a ban from racing.
“If they stop me [racing] then so be it. We’ve got a spare driver,” he said.
“There’s lots to do in the city anyway so I’ll be good either way.”
But Hamilton’s team did produce the documentation to the FIA saying they were in compliance with the rule, with a source telling Reuters that he would not wear any jewelery and had been given a two-race exemption for his body piercing.
Hamilton had given no indication that he was in the mood for a compromise when he attended the pre-race press conference wearing rings on every finger, three large watches (set to different time zones), a bangle, strings of thick necklaces and studs in both ears.
A further nose piercing was hidden by his face mask.
“I couldn’t get any more jewelery on today,” he said, adding that he felt the clampdown was almost a backward step at a time when the sport and governing FIA should be focused on its latest big breakthrough in America.
Asked what the solution might be to an apparent impasse, Hamilton indicated there was only so much he could do.
“I can’t remove at least two of them,” he said. “One I can’t really explain where it is.
“But what I can say is it’s platinum that I have, so it’s non-magnetic, it’s never been a safety issue in the past. I’ve had in 16 years so many MRI scans and not had to take out the platinum.”
Wittich had explained in his note that the wearing of jewelery underneath the mandatory flameproof clothing could reduce heat transmission protection and increase the risk of burn injuries.
He said it could also hinder medical intervention and treatment due to the risk of ‘snagging’ when safety equipment such as the helmet, balaclava or overalls were removed.
“In the case that medical imaging is required to inform diagnosis following an accident the presence of jewelery on the body can cause significant complication and delay,” added the German.
Hamilton said he had tried without success to speak to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who was elected in December, and wanted to assure the Emirati he was an ally rather than an opponent.
“I’ll try and speak to him before the race,” he said.
Rivals sympathized with Hamilton’s stance ahead of practice on the track around the Hard Rock Stadium.
“I think it is a bit unnecessary to blow this topic up,” said four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who drives for Aston Martin.
“To some degree it’s personal freedom. We are old enough to make our choices outside the car, we should be old enough to make choices also inside the car.”