By Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent, Melbourne
Lewis Hamilton has told Formula One bosses he is ready to defy a ban on jewellery.
F1’s new race director Niels Wittich has prioritised the clampdown ahead of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
While the prohibition of jewellery has been in place since 2004, Wittich – the German who replaced Michael Masi – brought the rule to the fore in his pre-race notes before addressing the subject directly with Hamilton and his peers in Friday night’s drivers’ briefing.
Wittich says the law is there protect the driver by not hindering a speedy escape from their car.
But Hamilton, who has jewellery in his nose and ear, said: “I have got certain piercings that I can’t just take out and that not many people know of. I’m kidding.
“Since I’ve been here in F1, it’s been the rule, so there’s nothing new. I’m just going to come up with more jewellery next week.”
The FIA clause states that “the wearing of jewellery in the form of body piercing or metal neck chains is prohibited during the competition and may therefore be checked before the start.”
Hamilton could theoretically be fined or docked points if he breaks the sporting code.
The record-breaking Briton has faced a trying start to the new season in his under-performing Mercedes machinery, and he is braced for further pain here at Melbourne’s Albert Park.
Hamilton, already 29 points behind championship leader Charles Leclerc, demanded more power and greater grip after he finished 10th at the controversial Saudi Arabian Grand Prix a fortnight ago.
But his Mercedes team arrived in Australia without any major upgrades as they continue to battle the new regulations.
Hamilton finished 13th and a distant 1.5 seconds behind Leclerc in practice, with world champion Max Verstappen second, 0.245 sec adrift, and Carlos Sainz third in the other Ferrari.
Neither Mercedes drivers made it into the top 10 after Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell finished 11th, 1.2 sec back.
“Nothing we change on the car makes a difference at the moment and that is the difficult thing,” said a disillusioned Hamilton.
“You get into the car and you are very optimistic, make changes, and then it doesn’t improve. There is just not a lot we can do. This is the way it is so we just have to drive with it.
“It is frustrating because you are trying to push and trying to catch and even when you do a decent lap, I am 1.2 seconds down.”
Mercedes’ season has been derailed by ‘porpoising’ – the phenomenon seen this year when the car violently bounces on its suspension at high speed. Virtually every team has been affected, but Red Bull and Ferrari have managed to get on top of it with Mercedes yet to find a fix.
Russell added: “We are ‘porpoising’ pretty bad, and driving into Turn 9 here is the most severe I have experienced.
“We have gone left, right and centre with the setup but has resulted in a similar outcome so we need to get on top of things.
“Driving is always cool but you enjoy it more when you jump out the car and see your name at the top of the time sheet. When you think you have done a good lap, and you are down in 11th, that is not where we want to be as a team.”
F1 is back in Australia for the first time since the 2020 Grand Prix was cancelled at the eleventh hour because of Covid-19.
A record 410,000 fans are expected across the three days, with 112,466 in for practice – up from 84,500 in 2019.
The circuit has also undergone a number of changes to spice up what can be a largely uneventful race.
The track has been widened at Turns 1, 6 and the penultimate corner, while the chicane has been removed at Turns 9 and 10 to provide the drivers with a high-speed drag down to Turn 11 in the hope of delivering greater overtaking opportunities.