Race Director, Michael Masi has clarified why four drivers were handed reprimands for wearing T-Shirts ahead of Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Following last year’s Tuscany Grand Prix, race-winner Lewis Hamilton faced investigation for wearing a slogan emblazoned T-Shirt.
Before the race, and again on the podium, the world champion sported a black T-Shirt which read “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” on the front and “say her name” on the back, along with a picture of Ms Taylor.
It was thought the T-Shirt breached FIA’s statutes that require that competitors “refrain from manifesting discrimination on account of race, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin, language, religion, philosophical or political opinion, family situation or disability in the course of its activities”, while the sporting code forbids competitors from “affixing to their automobiles advertising that is political or religious in nature or that is prejudicial to the interests of the FIA”.
However, days later, ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, the FIA clarified the rules.
(As usual) “once out of their cars, the top three Drivers will be weighed by the FIA near their cars” said race director, Michael Masi in his race notes, adding that “Each Driver must remain fully attired until after they have been weighed (e.g.: Helmet, Gloves, etc.).”
However, a new clause stated that: “For the duration of the Podium Ceremony and Post Race Interview Procedure, the Drivers finishing in race in positions 1, 2, 3 must remain attired only in their Driving Suits, ‘done up’ to the neck, not opened to the waist.
“For the duration of the TV pen interviews and FIA Post Race Press Conference, all Drivers finishing must remain attired in their respective teams’ uniform only.
“For the avoidance of doubt this includes a Medical Face Mask or Team Branded Face Mask.”
As F1 ramped up its We Race As One message, drivers were allowed to wear T-Shirts ahead of the race but not during the national anthems.
On Sunday, Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel, Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz were still wearing theirs during the anthem, and were subsequently handed (non-driving) reprimands.
The move led to the inevitable outcry on social media, especially in respect of Vettel who was wearing a ‘Same Love’ Pride shirt.
“Earlier this year we clarified (the rules),” says Masi. “And following discussion internally with the FIA and F1, we said we wanted to keep giving all of the drivers the ability to have the moment to show effectively their support for We Race as One however they chose, but then the national anthem for a particular country should be respected with drivers all wearing their race suits.
“So it was clarified and made very clear that once that moment was displayed and the drivers showed their recognition they would have to remove their shirt or anything else they wore and go to the national anthem in their race uniform.
“And that’s been the same for a number of events now, so this is the first event where it has happened since and all of those drivers that kept their shirts on, it wasn’t just Sebastian, there were four or five drivers, all received a non-driving reprimand for failing to follow the race director’s instructions.
“It was observed by a number of people including the media delegate who is out there, and myself on television. It went from me to the stewards, it was a breach and that’s why it was a reprimand for the first offence.”
Asked, since a reprimand could ultimately lead to a grid penalty, if the punishment was somewhat harsh, Masi said: “You look at all penalties on the basis of what it is. Reprimands are the lowest penalty other than a warning, which really is not a penalty, it’s a warning.
“A non-driving reprimand, so you need to have two driving reprimands and one non-driving to ultimately get to a grid penalty. But as an example, three non-driving reprimands it doesn’t have that impact.”