Race director Niels Wittich was a busy man last weekend. He handed out a fine to Sebastian Vettel for riding a scooter on the track during Friday practice, gave three penalty points to Lance Stroll, and reportedly got into an argument with Sir Lewis Hamilton regarding jewellery and fireproof underwear.
Vettel commandeered a scooter after his engine blowout during FP1, and the 5,000 euro fine he received as a consequence left him wondering where the money will go.
“It would be good to know what happens to that money,” he told Motorsport.com after describing the punishment as a “joke.”
“I think we are still not aware what happened to the $50,000 that Max [Verstappen] or [Sir] Lewis [Hamilton] or one of them had to pay for touching a rear wing.”
In article 5.1 of his race directors notes, Wittich reiterated to the drivers that no jewellery is to be worn while in the cockpit, and the drivers may be asked to remove it before sessions.
“The wearing of jewellery in the form of body piercing or metal neck chains is prohibited during the competition and may therefore be checked before the start,” he said.
It led Hamilton and Max Verstappen to joke about piercings in the press conference, while the 37-year-old also vowed to wear more in the race in Imola in two weeks.
“I’m just going to come up with more jewellery next week,” he affirmed.
He described the briefing on Friday with Wittich as the “longest briefing of my life,” and there are even reports that he got into a “verbal argument” with the German about it.
Adding to the mayhem of the attire discussion, the drivers were also reminded of the necessity to wear fireproof underwear while in the car – something that Jean Eric Vergne, Andre Lotterer and Lucas Di Grassi were all fined for in 2018 in Formula E.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly saw the funny side of the debacle.
“If they want to control everything, absolutely everything, then go ahead,” he said.
“I have nothing to hide below. Nothing at all,” quipped the Frenchman.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo divulged that the reminder from Wittich is not something he has come across before, but he will comply with the directive from the man who is sharing his role with Eduardo Freitas this season.
“We wear tights, if you want to call them that, but we don’t have any actual fireproof underwear, so it was a bit of a surprise,” he conceded.
“I’ve never heard of that but if it’s safer then of course I’ll have to get some.”
Wittich certainly appears to have made his mark since taking over from Michael Masi following the Australian’s removal over the winter, and there will now be intrigue as to how stringently he and Freitas will apply the aforementioned rules.