Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has hit out at FIA race director Niels Wittich over his jewellery crackdown at the Australian Grand Prix. Wolff questioned whether the jewellery ban was “a battle he [Wittich] needs to have” in his new role.
However, Wolff also took an apparent swipe at former race director Michael Masi, saying he would take the jewellery ban “a thousand times over” if it was Wittich’s only error. Speaking to the Press Association, Wolff said: “How he has run the first few races has been respectful, solid and he hasn’t put a single foot wrong.
“But is that [jewellery ban] a battle he needs to have at this stage? However, if it turns out to be the biggest unfortunate misstep of a race director, I would take it a thousand times over.”
Wittich and World Endurance Championship race director Eduardo Freitas took over the reins as a partnership for this season. It comes after Masi was removed from his role following the controversial end to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year.
Since arriving, Wittich has used his pre-event notes to come down on issues within the sport.
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This week, Wittich highlighted how jewellery should not be worn behind the wheel for safety concerns. There was also a furore surrounding the use of fireproof underwear when inside an F1 car.
In his Sky Sports notebook on Saturday, Ted Kravitz warned the crackdown appeared to only target one driver, Lewis Hamilton.
He said: “So it did seem to be on the face of it, a measure, or wanting to enforce a rule specifically targeted at Lewis Hamilton who of course has ear piercings and a nose piercing. I asked the FIA this and they said no absolutely not.”
However, the seven-time champion openly ignored the rule as he was spotted on the Melbourne grid wearing earrings.
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After the race, Hamilton directly addressed the ban and defiantly admitted he would not be removing jewellery before races.
He said: “I don’t have any plans on removing (them). There is stuff that I can’t move. I literally can’t even take these out.
“These ones on my right ear, they are literally welded in so I have to get them chopped off or something like that. So they will be staying.”