Since the race direction of the Formula 1 Grands Prix was assigned to Niels Wittich, the sporting regulations have been passed under the magnifying glass. The German’s rigorous approach has brought out aspects of the ‘sporting regulations’ that had been ignored or tolerated over the years. It should be emphasized that the Wittich method fully embraces what is stated in the regulation, but some positions have been the subject of criticism in the paddock.
The first episode dates back to the weekend in Miami last year, when the case relating to the pilots’ underwear came to the fore, which by regulation must be made of fireproof material. Already in Formula 3 Wittich had stood out for a clothing check carried out before the start of a race, a check that he had taken by surprise due to its timing and rigidity. There were no sudden checks in Formula 1, the subject was addressed in the briefing in Miami and was immediately contested by some drivers. Among the most aggressive Sebastian Vettel, who in protest decided to wear briefs over the suit in the paddock.
The controversy relating to the jewels involving Lewis Hamilton also drags on from Miami. At each race, Mercedes informs the FIA of its driver’s intention to wear piercings, the sports stewards refer everything to Dr. Ian Roberts, who confirms that wearing and removing piercings at each session can potentially be the subject of problems for the pilot. All this is repeated on the Thursday of each Grand Prix.
Aston Martin mechanics climb the fence to applaud Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, provisionally third, as he crosses the finish line
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Wittich’s latest call concerns the traditional celebrations of the teams when their driver passes under the checkered flag. It is an iconic passage, immortalized at the finish line of every Grand Prix for decades, images that are part of the history of Formula 1. In the pre-race notes sent to the teams on the eve of the Melbourne weekend it was pointed out that (with reference to Appendix H of article 2.3.2 of the international sporting code) “It is expressly forbidden for personnel to climb the fences placed in the pit lane at any time. If the personnel of a team contravenes this rule, it will be reported to the team of stewards.
Among those who have come out to criticize Wittich’s decision is Christian Horner. “I’m surprised that the celebrations at the finish line have been classified as a safety problem – commented the Red Bull team principal – we are talking about an iconic moment, in which a driver passes under the checkered flag and the team celebrates with him. Personally I have never seen this as a problem, I have always thought it is a moment that is part of racing, and we as Red Bull Racing have always done the same thing in the 94 victories we have achieved. But if they are rules then we will adapt”.
When asked about it, Mike Krack said that if Fernando Alonso were to reach the milestone of the thirty-third victory, the team would be ready to pay the fine. “Here in Melbourne, the problem doesn’t arise – explained the Aston Martin team principal – the barriers are made of glass, so nobody should be able to climb. But if Fernando wins, here or elsewhere, and if there is someone who celebrates beyond what is allowed, well, we will pay the fine.”
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