FIA chief praised for ‘enforcing the rules’ amid ongoing Lewis Hamilton row

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FIA chief Niels Wittich has been praised for enforcing the rules during the first five Grands Prix of the season amid a row over Lewis Hamilton wearing jewellery during races. Wittich was appointed as one of two new F1 race directors alongside Eduardo Freitas ahead of the new season and has overseen every race so far.

The FIA decided to mix things up at the start of the season and sacked ex-race director Michael Masi following his controversial decision-making at the season-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the end of last year. Wittich has since focused his attention on areas such as track limits, the handing back of positions and the wearing of the correct attire.

And McLaren Formula One boss Andreas Seidl thinks the changes have been vindicated. “Niels is quite straightforward in terms of making sure the rules get enforced,” Seidl said. “He’s also quite straightforward in terms of getting across what he’s expecting – and that’s what I personally like.

“At the same time, he’s always available for a dialogue and for constructive input as well if you think things need to be reconsidered. From this point of view, when I look now how these first races went, I think we are in a good place.

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“I don’t want to compare to the past because from our point of view we have been very happy with the exchange or working relationship that we had also with the previous set-ups the FIA had. But from my point of view, the new set-up with Niels and also with Eduardo had a very good start going into this new era of Formula One.”

Meanwhile, some drivers, including Hamilton, have spoken out against the clampdown of wearing jewellery during races. The Briton has said he won’t remove his jewellery despite being given until the Monaco Grand Prix to do so. And Seidl thinks drivers should be banned from the track if they disobey the rules.

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“In the end, it’s a rule that’s in place for many, many years,” Seidl added. “If you have worked in other categories, it’s not even a discussion. If you don’t like to take off your jewellery or you don’t want to put the fireproof underwear on, you just don’t drive. It’s quite straightforward and simple.

“From the FIA side, they offered again a dialogue for all kinds of situations where it might be a bit trickier to take the jewellery off for example. And that’s exactly what we are asking for and what we also like that we see – there is this open dialogue possible in order to find solutions.”

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