Last month, Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, sent shockwaves through the motorsport world by announcing a significant rule change.
The maximum fine for drivers found guilty of a “serious offence” was increased to a staggering €1 million (£870,000). FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem defended the move, but the decision has left many, including Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton, scratching their heads.
The dramatic increase in fines
The announcement by the FIA World Motor Sport Council took many by surprise. The maximum fine has been quadrupled from the previous €250,000, a move described as “obscene” by critics and several drivers. The lack of explicit guidelines as to what would warrant such a hefty fine has led to confusion and prompted many in the paddock to speak out.
Justification for the rule change
Attempting to explain the rationale behind the rule change, Ben Sulayem told Speedcafe: “The price of everything has gone up. The teams are now talking about billions in terms of what each team is worth, and we still haven’t improved our regulations, which date back to Jurassic Park…”
He continued: “We’re not saying ‘go and pay’. We are saying ‘don’t take these unnecessary penalties’. If you don’t do it, you don’t get it. Nobody is going to impose anything on you if you follow the rules. The rules are there to be policed and enforced”.
However, when asked what specific incidents would trigger a €1 million fine, the FIA chief was less than forthcoming, suggesting that only the stewards could really answer that question.
Hamilton’s firm stance
Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time world champion, expressed his reservations about the rule change. In no uncertain terms, Hamilton stated that he would only ever pay such a large fine if he knew the money was going to a worthwhile cause.
“When it comes to things like this, we really have to think about the message it sends to those watching,” Hamilton noted.
The Mercedes driver continued: “If they’re going to fine you a million, let’s make sure 100 per cent of it goes to a good cause.
“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 don’t normally get a chance to be in the spotlight.
“There are so many causes around the world. That’s the only way they’re going to get that million from me!”
The FIA’s decision to drastically increase the maximum fine has sparked much debate and controversy within Formula One. While the governing body justifies the change as an update to outdated regulations, many see it as excessive and poorly explained.
With influential figures such as Lewis Hamilton taking a strong stance, the FIA may need to reconsider how this new rule is implemented or provide further clarity, particularly in relation to the distribution of the hefty fines.
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