A week after the Qatar Grand Prix, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has ordered a new investigation into an incident involving Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver was forced to retire early from the race following a collision with his team-mate George Russell.
Hamilton’s post-crash behaviour, in particular crossing the active track without the marshals’ permission, resulted in a €50,000 fine and a warning from the stewards. However, the FIA have decided to review the decision, claiming that the matter may be more serious than originally thought.
Reviewing penalties, setting precedents?
The FIA’s new investigation isn’t necessarily aimed at increasing Hamilton’s punishment. Instead, it is seeking to establish a “fundamental ruling” on how crossing an active track during a race should be penalised. A recent dangerous incident in the karting world championship seems to have added urgency to the FIA’s action.
“The FIA is investigating the incident where Lewis Hamilton crossed an active track during the Qatar Grand Prix,” said an FIA spokesman.
“The FIA notes that at the subsequent stewards’ hearing Lewis apologised for the incident and acknowledged that the crossing was a serious breach of safety.
FIA seek to deter others from doing the same as Hamilton
When Hamilton was first cautioned and fined, the FIA said it believed these penalties would act as a deterrent in the future. In their ruling, the sports commissioners emphasised that the seven-time world champion had apologised for the incident.
“During the hearing, the driver of car 44 apologised sincerely and admitted that the situation could have become very dangerous both for him and for the approaching drivers,” the FIA said at the time.
“The stewards have confirmed that crossing an active circuit can lead to extremely dangerous situations and that drivers must be very careful”.
The renewed investigation also comes in the wake of a similar incident at last weekend’s final round of the World Karting Championship in Franciacorta, Italy. There, British driver Joe Turney was hit by a competitor and injured in the leg while trying to push his kart back onto the track after slipping.
Role model controversy
However, the FIA’s reasoning for reviewing the ruling has caused some controversy. The organisation explicitly cited Hamilton’s “role model status” as a significant factor. Although Hamilton has apologised for the incident, the FIA is concerned that his actions could have a knock-on effect, encouraging younger drivers to engage in unsafe behaviour.
“However, given his exemplary character, the FIA is concerned about the impression that this behaviour could have had on younger drivers,” the FIA spokesman said.
This line of thinking is potentially worrying to some. If Hamilton, or any other high-profile driver, is held to a different standard, what precedent does that set for the sport?
The term “role model” is ambiguous and potentially problematic. It implies that penalties could be revised based on a driver’s perceived influence, setting a confusing precedent. Such a standard could be unfair, especially if it only applies to a select few who are considered to be role models. This ambiguity raises questions about the FIA’s overall approach to stewardship and the sanctioning process.
While the FIA may have legitimate concerns about safety, its focus on Hamilton alone misses the broader issue. The FIA needs to make it clear that all F1 drivers are considered role models when it comes to setting standards of behaviour on the track.
Therefore, penalties should be universally severe to emphasise the seriousness of any breach of the rules, regardless of who commits it.
The FIA’s intention to ensure driver safety is valid and necessary. However, the inclusion of “role model status” as a criterion for reviewing Hamilton’s incident raises many questions about the organisation’s judgement and fairness. This incident could be a watershed moment for the FIA, forcing it to clarify its stance on the role of a driver’s public profile in disciplinary decisions.
As the sport continues to evolve, ensuring transparent and consistent decision-making will be crucial, both for its integrity and to set a precedent for future generations of drivers.
MORE F1 NEWS: Lance Stroll dumped as team sale rumour gains momentum
Aston Martin had a brief stint in Formula One in the 1950s, but withdrew due to the financial burden and complexity of the competition at the time. The iconic British marque’s decision to return was catalysed by Lawrence Stroll’s significant investment in Aston Martin Lagonda in January 2020, and with Stroll at the helm, plans were swiftly put in place to develop Racing Point into the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team, marking Aston Martin’s return to Formula One for the first time in over six decades.
But recent rumours appear to point at another potential brand falling away from the sport yet again. The rebrand went far beyond mere…READ MORE ON THIS STORY