Schumacher slams Hamilton and Vettel for being poor role models amid fresh row with FIA

Sebastian Vettel and Sir Lewis Hamilton have spoken out against Niels Wittich's re-emphasis on the ban on jewellery in the cockpit.

Former Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher is concerned by what he perceives as a risk averse attitude from Sebastian Vettel and Sir Lewis Hamilton surrounding safety at this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix.

Race director Niels Wittich sent a reminder to the drivers ahead of the weekend that the wearing of jewellery inside the cockpit is prohibited due to the possible fire hazards attached to it, and suggested that scrutineers have the right to check the drivers’ underwear to ensure it is flame retardant.

In defiance of Wittich’s reinforcement of the regulation introduced in 2005, Hamilton arrived at the press conference on Friday with a multitude of necklaces, bracelets, watches and rings, and he indicated that the sport’s focal point should be on less trivial areas.

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“I think we’ve made such great strides as a sport… this is such a small thing,” he said.

“I’ve been in this sport for 16 years [and] I’ve been wearing jewellery for 16 years. In the car I only ever have my earrings on and my nose ring which I can’t even remove.”

The 37-year-old is keen to speak to FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem to discern whether there needs to be such a storm around the wearing of jewellery.

“It’s about individuality and being who you are. I sent [ben Sulayem] a message just reassuring him that I want to be an ally. I don’t want to fight with you guys over this. This is very, very silly.

“I’ll try to communicate and work with Mohammed. I’m here to be an ally of Mohammed, of the sport and Formula 1, and as I said I think we’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

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Vettel believes that Wittich’s fresh adamance that the drivers adhere to the requirements regarding attire is aimed at the seven-time world champion, and he too believes there are more important matters to discuss.

“Probably at this stage, it is more of a personal thing and I feel, in a way, [it is] particularly targeted to Lewis,” he explained.

“We spoke about underpants as well, but really is that the most exciting thing we can talk about? In a way, there is a concern for safety if you have stuff and the car does catch fire it would be unpleasant.

“To some degree, it is personal freedom and we are old enough to make our choices outside the car. We should [also] be old enough to make choices also inside the car.”

The 34-year-old made a mockery of the German’s request ahead of Friday practice in Miami, hilariously wearing underpants over the top of his race suit and causing hysteria in the world of F1.

One of the reasons for the re-emergence of the discussion regarding fire safety will have been the crash Romain Grosjean suffered at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, in which his car penetrated the barrier and caused a massive fire that he was miraculously fortunate to walk away from.

The Frenchman is in Miami this weekend, and he affirmed that, despite the accident, he would not be comfortable racing without his watch or his wedding ring.

“I’ve been wearing my wedding ring all my career [and] my Richard Mille watch,” he said.

“Where my ring was I was protected so I was protected by my wife and saved by my kids so I understand some of it but I wouldn’t like to race without my wedding ring, that is big for me.” 

Schumacher is less humoured by the debate than Vettel and Hamilton, and insists that regulations designed to save lives should be regarded with more sincerity.

“They should be committed to safety especially after Romain Grosjean’s accident,” he told Sky Germany.

“The drivers should know better.”

The six-time race winner warns that their actions set a bad example for young drivers coming through the ranks in motorsport.

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“The FIA is absolutely right – the young guys in Formula 4 and 3 should see that the F1 drivers stick to the rules. When the most experienced people like Vettel and Hamilton mock the FIA, I think it’s childish,” he added.

Hamilton’s permanent piercings on his ears and nose must be removed by the Monaco Grand Prix, but intrigue will surround the paddock if he does not after the 37-year-old affirmed that the team have a “spare driver” that can replace him if required.