Mercedes Formula One driver and GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers’ Association) director George Russell has spoken out against the FIA’s recent decision to increase the maximum fines for Grand Prix drivers from €250,000 to a whopping €1 million.
Describing the move as “ridiculous” and “obscene”, Russell has reignited debates about the escalating costs of the sport and questioned the motives behind such punitive measures.
Context: A dramatic increase in fines
According to the FIA’s International Sporting Code, this quadrupling of the maximum fine comes after 12 years of no change, ostensibly to “reflect the current needs of motorsport”.
While the governing body has remained silent on how the revenue generated will be used, the increase has not gone unnoticed or unchallenged by the drivers.
George Russell, who made his F1 debut with Williams Racing, noted that up-and-coming talent often doesn’t earn anything close to €1 million.
“In my first year in F1 I was on a five-figure salary and actually lost over six figures paying for my trainer, flights and an assistant,” he said. Stressing that a similar financial scenario could apply to around a quarter of the current grid, he added:
“What will happen if you fine a driver in his first year who is already losing over €100,000?
Call for transparency
Russell and other drivers have asked the FIA for clarity on where the revenue from such fines will go. Recent hefty fines – such as Max Verstappen’s €50,000 for touching a car and Lewis Hamilton’s €50,000 for crossing a live track – have caused concern among drivers. Russell insisted:
“We have already asked the FIA where these fines are going. It needs to be reinvested in the grassroots, but so far we’ve had no response…”
The issue came to the fore during a recent FIA press conference. Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo described the increase in fines as “scary”, while Max Verstappen joked about what could justify a €1 million fine. Lewis Hamilton agreed with his Mercedes teammate Russell that any significant fines should be used for worthy causes, such as promoting diversity and accessibility in the sport.
Both Hamilton and Russell pointed out that the sport has a greater responsibility given its vast resources. Hamilton said: “There’s a lot of money in this whole industry and there’s a lot more we need to do in terms of creating better accessibility, better diversity, more opportunities for people who wouldn’t normally have a chance to get into a sport like this.”
George Russell’s stinging criticism of the FIA’s new maximum fine draws attention to wider issues surrounding the economics and ethics of Formula One. With the sport’s governing body yet to answer where these fines will go, drivers are left with growing concerns and questions.
If these hefty penalties are to become a new reality, the FIA owes it to the sport and its stakeholders to ensure transparency and ethical use of such significant funds. Thus far, the FIA appears to prefer to do the opposite with such matters.
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