Lewis Hamilton, preparing for what is always a test weekend on the streets of Monaco, greeted an FIA raid in a spat that is clearly becoming an annoying distraction.
The threat that Hamilton would miss the race on Sunday due to the impasse over whether drivers can wear jewelry under their racing suits was temporarily lifted on Friday, with the sport taking a moratorium on the enforcement of the rule for consider ways to reach an agreement.
The rule had largely gone unenforced until this season, when new race director Niels Wittich told drivers he would strictly enforce the rule for safety reasons. He imposed a crackdown on Miami where controls were enforced to ensure compliance.
Hamilton objected to the move, noting that he had piercings, including a nose stud that could not be removed, and that he had run around with jewelry his entire career.
The seven-time world champion pointedly observed that the rule made little sense given that wedding rings and bracelets were allowed, and his position was backed by other riders. He was given a two-race bye to give him time to remove the jewelry, but he made it clear he had no intention of backing down. The exemption ended before this weekend’s meeting in Monaco but has now been extended to cover that meeting, Azerbaijan and Canada and will end before the British Grand Prix on July 3.
Hamilton welcomed the move on an issue he said had already taken up unnecessary time. “The rule came in 2005, we’ve all worn jewelry our whole Formula 1 careers,” he said. “It hasn’t been a problem in the past and there’s no reason it should necessarily be a problem now. It is definitely positive that we are working with [the FIA] and I think they are a bit accommodating at the moment. But we shouldn’t keep revisiting this thing every weekend. We definitely have bigger fish to fry.
The intention is for drivers and FIA medical staff to find common ground to adjust the international sporting code so that jewelry can be worn in a way that is considered safe. The FIA cited Romain Grosjean’s crash at the Bahrain GP in 2020, where his car was engulfed in flames, as an example of fears the jewels could cause problems extricating drivers from stricken cars. Grosjean was lucky to survive with only minor burns from a horrific accident.
Hamilton was delighted to put the problem behind him as he directed his energy to maximizing his Mercedes team’s efforts in Monaco.
“Honestly, I feel like there’s way too much time and energy being put into it,” he said. “I said everything I thought I should say about it in the last few races and that’s not what I’m focusing on this weekend.
He and Mercedes are hoping for another strong weekend, having finally appeared to have started to resolve their car’s porpoising issues at the final round in Spain. Hamilton has always been the fastest rider on track at Barcelona and made a fine comeback from 19th to 5th after being hit and punctured on the opening lap.
Mercedes have struggled in Monaco in the past but there is some optimism this time around their car will be better suited to the slower corners of the principality, although practice suggests they still have work to do.
Championship leaders Ferrari and Red Bull will almost certainly always be on top here. Charles Leclerc is confident Ferrari will be fine at its home race in Monte Carlo – a meeting where it never finished – after showing good pace in Spain before an engine problem ended its race prematurely .
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen then cruised to victory in Barcelona to overtake Leclerc in the title fight and take a six-point lead. Red Bull have shown their best form in straight-line pace this year, so Ferrari could well be ahead in Monaco. However, qualifying will be vital as usual and more so than ever this year with the size and weight of the cars making overtaking extremely difficult.
Leclerc opened the weekend well, leading in the opening practice of a competitive session in which Ferrari and Red Bull traded fastest times. He finished only three hundredths behind Sergio Pérez. Hamilton and teammate George Russell were once again suffering from rebounds, with a stiff setup for the street circuit and finished eighth and 10th.
In the afternoon, Leclerc took a Ferrari one-two with Carlos Sainz, with Red Bull’s Pérez and Verstappen in third and fourth. Russell was sixth and Hamilton 12th.