Written by Staff Writer by Brooke Best, CNN
The controversy over motorsport governing body FIA’s decision to grant three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton an exemption to the mandatory sportswear ban rumbles on.
After last season’s 23-year-old record-breaking feat at the Autodromo Nazionale de Monza, Hamilton was outfitted with specially-developed ‘gloves’ made by Swiss luxury brand Movado. He also sported a ‘glove watch’ made by Blancpain in tribute to McLaren’s most successful driver in the 1970s.
After the new rules were introduced for the 2017 season, Hamilton returned to a more popular official 2019 Formula 1 outfit made by TAG Heuer, much to the chagrin of his opponents.
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Despite a court challenge of the decision by Williams and Esteban Ocon, the FIA maintained the exemption — sparking outrage from drivers worried about the precedent and revealing the lack of consultation.
All other drivers were fined for wearing unauthorized equipment last season. Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was said to have borrowed Hamilton’s one-off Movado goods last year for the team’s Winter Autosport Exhibition, which was held at the same time as the Ferrari challenge.
If a similar breach is proven this season — by either Mercedes or Ferrari — the team’s drivers will face a full year-long ban.
With Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas arriving in China for this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, the controversy has been reignited once again — in a different venue.
Speaking at an event Wednesday in Hong Kong, new FIA president Jean Todt said: “I remember when McLaren and TAG owned half of Formula 1, we had unique things that the others didn’t have. I had these strange tools with me sometimes, and if we had a tyre shortage, I would build a race car with a broken wheel to sell.”
No new dress code
New FIA president Jean Todt has been defending the organization’s stance on Formula 1. Credit: Shizuo Kambayashi/AP
During his presentation on the new safety initiatives and policy changes made by the FIA in the 2017-19 period, Todt revealed that the sport will not implement a uniform uniform style, but all teams will use the same overalls for testing and promotional events, as well as uniforms for racing and practice sessions.
While the new regulations will certainly require the teams to find innovative ways to save more energy and are in line with the F1 reform-led Make It Lighter initiative, Todt added that his hopes were still “to have the most spectacular atmosphere around Formula 1 racing.”
“There is no uniform — Mercedes will always be in one uniform, Ferrari will always be in another uniform — and that’s how I see it,” he added.
Todt also said that Formula 1’s governing body was hard at work drafting new rules for safety features. While he said some still need to be ironed out, he said he remained optimistic of a deadline for the 2018 season.
“It’s true that there is still work to be done, but there is progress, and we will do it,” he said.
What do Lewis Hamilton’s gloves mean for Wiggle and this year’s Chinese Grand Prix? Credit: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Meanwhile on the track, the buzz around Hamilton’s new gloves and the controversy surrounding the allowances has encouraged media outlets to pay particular attention to Formula 1’s newest challengers.
Aside from Mercedes, Ricciardo, Bottas and Perez are among the drivers expected to make an impact in China, which takes its Formula 1 ranking to the point where it gets its own race day.
With less than a month to go until this year’s race, set to showcase the largest collection of fantasy cars ever seen at a grand prix, here’s the latest in our story on this summer’s Chinese Grand Prix.