According to Grand Prix Driver Association [GPDA] president Alex Wurz, F1 was right to ban drivers from wearing jewellery inside their cockpits, but should have enforced the rule in a less confrontational manner.
At the Australian Grand Prix, the FIA had reminded F1 drivers that wearing jewellery (rings, piercings, watches or neck chains) was totally forbidden inside the cockpit during each session for obvious safety reasons, while they were also reminded that wearing fireproof underwear was also mandatory.
FIA race director Niels Wittich gave the drivers a grace period until the Miami Grand Prix to comply with the rule. Since the last race in Miami, teams must submit a form to the FIA before the start of each weekend in which they state that their drivers are not breaking the rules.
In Miami, seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton said that certain piercings that have been on his body for many years could not be removed and so he was given a special dispensation to race in Miami and Barcelona but had to remove all his piercings for the Monaco Grand Prix on 29 May. However, the Mercedes driver said he had no intention of doing so…
For Alex Wurz – who has chaired the GPDA for a number of years now and is fighting to make the sport safer for drivers – the rule should indeed be enforced for safety reasons, but the Austrian would have preferred the FIA to take a slightly different approach to get its message across:
“It’s a rule for the right reasons,” he told Reuters news agency.
“But I probably would have liked to have had a slightly different approach to getting the message across. I don’t want to end up like in football where there is the most hand-wringing and verbal abuse. We have to work together, that’s a style I would have preferred in this case.”
The ban on jewellery, as well as the wearing of non-conforming underwear, has long been enshrined in FIA rules, but the rule has so far been rarely enforced by previous race directors. Alex Wurz said he had never forgotten a press conference he attended a few years ago by former driver Kris Nissen, who had a violent accident on the Fuji circuit in 1988.
“He showed his body and said ‘look at this’. For him, the most painful thing after the fire was not the fire. It was the rubber (elastic) of his trousers that was burnt into his skin. He said he went through years of agony and pain, and that educated me,” Wurz added.
“At that moment I said to myself that I didn’t want to go through this kind of consequences just for not taking off my trousers to put on fireproof underwear and it’s the same with the jewellery,” the Austrian concluded.