FIA race director Michael Masi has claimed Lewis Hamilton set an unacceptable example by undoing his safety belt to celebrate his stunning victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who came from tenth on the grid to clinch victory and reignited his chances of winning a record-breaking eighth world championship, was fined €5,000 for undoing his belt on the cooldown lap in Sao Paulo.
In a written ruling, the FIA said they were “sympathetic to the desire to celebrate” but that it is “fundamentally unsafe to undo the seatbelts while the car is in motion”.
“Further, F1 drivers set the example for junior categories,” the statement added. “It is critical that junior category drivers learn the importance of using all the safety devices of the car at all times.”
Masi clarified that drivers are permitted to loosen their safety harnesses after a race to celebrate but that to detach the belt fully presents a clear danger.
“Obviously, everyone knows that rule. It’s been discussed before as well, probably, I’ll guess around 18 months ago,” Masi told Motorsport.com. “And then I’m well aware it was discussed in [former FIA race director] Charlie’s [Whiting] time. Drivers were reminded that obviously on cooldown laps, there’s no problem loosening their belts but they need to remain fully attached.
“And it’s a safety item. I think the stewards have made it quite clear in their decision that it’s not about stopping celebrations at all. But at the pinnacle of motorsport it’s a safety issue, but also it’s sending a message all the way through that that type of behaviour is not acceptable.”
The FIA are holding a hearing on Thursday afternoon which could prove decisive in the championship race between Hamilton and Max Verstappen as Mercedes attempt to present evidence that forces retrospective action against the Red Bull driver.
In a contentious moment at Interlagos, Hamilton appeared to be set to overtaken Verstappen only for the Dutch driver to aggressively hold his line, causing both cars to veer off the track.
The race stewards deemed that no action was required at the time, much to the frustration of Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, and it was later revealed that one angle had not been available of the incident.
If Verstappen is judged to have breached the rules, he could face a retroactive five-second time penalty that would drop him to a third-place finish in Brazil or a grid penalty for the next race in Qatar.
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