New FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem could punish Lewis Hamilton for skipping the governing body’s awards ceremony in Paris on Thursday.
Ben Sulayem, who succeeded Jean Todt as FIA President, warned there will be ’no forgiveness’ for the seven-time world champion.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff confirmed that neither he nor star driver Hamilton – who was knighted at Windsor Castle by the Prince of Wales on Wednesday – would attend the FIA Prize Giving Ceremony.
Their absence came after Red Bull star Verstappen secured a maiden world title in dramatic and controversial circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday after he and title rival Hamilton went into the season finale at the Yas Marina Circuit tied on points.
The Dutchman passed the seven-time world champion – who had dominated for much of the race – on the final lap after a late Safety Car and tyre change swung momentum in his favour. The 24-year-old made the move on the Brit early in the lap and held on to secure the first championship of his career.
The controversial ending saw Mercedes lodge two protests that were quickly dismissed by the FIA, while the Silver Arrows announced they were withdrawing their appeal on Thursday.
The news of their withdrawal confirmed Verstappen as the 2021 world champion as Hamilton, who is tied with Michael Schumacher for the most titles in F1 history with seven world championships, reportedly did not want to win the record-breaking title in court.
On Thursday, it was reported that the FIA could punish Hamilton for his absence as a failure to attend was a breach of Article 6.6 of F1's Sporting Regulations – and Ben Sulayem was uncompromising in his stance.
“First of all, as a driver, I feel emotional but at the end of the day rules are rules,” he said. “So we are going to look into the side where the technical rules are there to be employed.
“Was he in breach? I have to look into it. We have to be following our rules, but in the meanwhile it doesn't stop us from making a champion feel good about the sport.
“It's easy to be nice to people, it's cheap to be nice, and also to motivate people, but if there is any breach there is no forgiveness in this.”
As punishment, Hamilton could be fined or even suffer a reprimand that would take his tally to three and trigger a 10-place grid penalty in the opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Ben Sulayem also revealed he would not make a hasty decision regarding FIA race director Michael Masi: “I’ll look into every single matter that can improve the FIA or if there's an issue about it, but I definitely wouldn't do just jump into conclusions or decisions without going back to my team.”
Masi made a series of questionable calls throughout the year but none more so than the decision to not allow cars to unlap themselves, as is tradition, only to change his mind to set up the final lap showdown between Hamilton and Verstappen last Sunday.
F1’s sporting regulations insist the drivers that finish in the top three of the championship must attend the prize giving ceremony but while Hamilton was not there, his fans certainly ensured their presence was felt.
Do you think Lewis Hamilton should be punished by the FIA for missing the awards ceremony? Let us know in the comments section.
A van was parked outside the gala building, with an interactive message that read: “WeStandWithLewis.”
The statement came after Wolff suggested Hamilton could retire following the heartbreaking end to the season, but Verstappen hopes his rival continues racing into next season.
“Of course, I can understand that the first few days, after a race like that, you're not happy,” Verstappen said at the FIA Prize-Giving Ceremony. “You should also understand this is racing and these things can happen to you.
“I think he should just look back at what he has achieved, and that should give him a lot of comfort and that drive to keep on going. He is still trying to challenge for that eighth title, and he can do that again next year, so I don't see any reason why to give up or stop now.”
When asked if he feels sorry for Hamilton, the Dutchman said: “No, I don't feel sorry but I can understand it can be very painful.”
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