Lewis Hamilton crashes out of Qatar Grand Prix after first-lap smash with George Russell; Photograph: Xavi Bonilla/DPPI/Shutterstock
Lewis Hamilton is to face an investigation by the FIA for walking across the track during the Qatar Grand Prix last weekend. It is the second time the incident has come under scrutiny, with the British driver having already been investigated and fined by the stewards at the race.
The decision to reopen the case is an almost unprecedented move which is already raising questions as to why Hamilton has been singled out by Formula One’s governing body, who cited his position as a “role model”.
Hamilton had crashed into his Mercedes teammate, George Russell, on the opening lap at the first corner in Qatar, putting him out of the race. He then climbed from his car and walked across the track to return to the pits, just before the main field of cars came through, a breach of the regulations. He apologised, agreed that he should not have done so and accepted that it was dangerous for himself and the drivers on track. The stewards gave him a reprimand and a £43,350 fine, half of which was suspended.
However, on Sunday the FIA announced they were to revisit the case. It is believed Hamilton will not face further punishment but that the purpose is to review the case with a view to imposing harsher penalties for crossing a live track in future, to emphasise that it is considered highly dangerous.
But the statement from the FIA noted that Hamilton’s status was a contributory factor. “The FIA is revisiting the incident in which Lewis Hamilton crossed a live track during the Qatar Grand Prix,” it read. “The FIA notes that Lewis was apologetic during the subsequent stewards’ hearing into the incident and acknowledged that the crossing was a serious safety breach. However, in view of his role model status, the FIA is concerned about the impression his actions may have created on younger drivers.”
Citing his position as a role model is highly unusual and not covered by the regulations. It is generally considered that all the drivers are role models and have a responsibility to act accordingly. There is no provision in the regulations that rules and penalties can be adjusted or reinterpreted according to the status of a driver.
In 2022 Hamilton was involved in a lengthy standoff with the FIA as the governing body insisted drivers adhere strictly to the ban on wearing jewellery in the car. At the time the four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel stated he believed Hamilton was being singled out by the FIA, describing the strict imposition of the ban as “personal” and “targeted to Lewis”.