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Formula 1

Hamilton and FIA ‘worked together’ on fine he owes for gala snub

by Josh Suttill
5 min read

Mercedes Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton has revealed that the fine he’ll receive for missing the mandated end-of-season FIA prizegiving ceremony last year will be put towards helping underprivileged students.

Scorned by a controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton and his Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff elected to skip the annual FIA gala on the Thursday following the race.

Hamilton’s failure to attend was a clear breach of Article 6.6 of the sporting regulations, which states “drivers finishing first, second and third in the championship must be present at the annual FIA Prize Giving ceremony”.

Speaking ahead of the 2022 Bahrain season-opener, Hamilton said he’s worked with the FIA and its new president Mohammed Ben Sulayem to ensure the fine is given to a good cause.

“There will be some sort of fine re: the gala,” Hamilton confirmed.

“But we’ve worked together to make sure that the money will be put towards youths from underprivileged backgrounds [to help] them get into motorsport engineering.”

Later on Friday, the FIA released a statement confirming that new president Ben Sulayem had met with Hamilton to discuss diversity and inclusion in motorsport.

“Hamilton shared some of his experiences and findings from the report of the Hamilton Commission,” the statement read. “One of the key factors identified upon which commitment to diversity and inclusion relies is the implementation of initiatives that are accessible to underrepresented groups.

“In the spirit of commitment to building a more diverse sport in the future, the FIA president gave his full support to Hamilton’s decision to make a donation of €50,000 that will be used to support a student from a disadvantaged background in achieving an education qualification in motorsport.

“During the meeting, the circumstances that led to Hamilton’s absence from the 2021 FIA Prize Giving Ceremony were also discussed. Hamiton acknowledged the importance of celebrating the year’s achievements with the prize winners from across motorsport and the FIA president reminded Hamilton of his obligation of sportsmanship, particularly in view of his status in motorsport.”

Hamilton was inevitably asked if it was important that the FIA release the full report into the Abu Dhabi GP ahead of this Saturday’s meeting of the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council.

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes F1

“I think it’s important that as a sport we’re transparent,” Hamilton replied. “And I had a good meeting with Mohammed last night, who agreed that’s the direction we should take as a sport.

“So I’m looking forward to seeing it come out and people to know that this sport is transparent and we’re learning from what’s happened in the past and we’ll make improvements moving forward.”

Reigning F1 world champion Max Verstappen who defeated Hamilton in the Abu Dhabi showdown, was also asked for his view.

“I don’t think we need a full report,” he said. “Of course, always every year it’s good to discuss what will happen the year before and what you can do better. I mean that’s what teams do as well, right?

“You always analyse everything you do. So, yeah, we’ll find out. And of course, if things can be written down in an easier way or a way to understand the wording better [than a full report], it’s good.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc also highlighted the importance of “transparency” while Mick Schumacher said that F1 should “obviously try not to repeat something like” Abu Dhabi in the future.

F1 drivers press conference Bahrain GP

Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz hopes F1 can move on once the full report is published and read.

“Yeah, I’m obviously interested in seeing what comes out of it and what we have learned as a sport and what changes are going to be applied to make sure that such thing doesn’t repeat again,” Sainz said.

“But at the same time, I think it’s time to, as soon as it comes out and as soon as it’s analysed and read by everyone, it’s time to move on.

“We are in March 2022 and we are still talking about December 2021 and I think as a sport it’s also time to whatever comes out of that meeting, learn from it and apply the lessons learnt and don’t talk about it too much again because otherwise, we’re just going to spend too much time in the past.”

As part of the FIA’s response to the Abu Dhabi fallout, two new alternating race directors have been installed in place of the axed Michael Masi.

Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich have taken on the role, with the latter of which in charge for F1’s season-opener.

“None of us have had the time, it’s been flat out,” Hamilton said when asked if the drivers have met Wittich.

“I don’t know if the drivers have met him but hopefully in time, we will.

“I met Mohammed a long time ago, through an event we had 10 years ago or something like that in Dubai. So it’s good to see him in the position he’s in, adds to that diversity challenge that we’re trying to overcome.”

The drivers are also yet to be informed of the new VAR-style virtual race control system that’s been put in place to support the race directors.

Lewis Hamilton F1 Mercedes

Hamilton’s final question of the new pre-practice press conference asked him if he’d change his approach this season after his title fight with Verstappen last year.

“I will be a more aggressive driver this year,” was his simple reply.

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