Lewis Hamilton crosses the track during a live race at the Qatar Grand Prix earlier this month

United States Grand Prix: FIA quadruple maximum F1 driver fine to 1m euros

Lewis Hamilton crosses the track during a live race at the Qatar Grand Prix earlier this monthLewis Hamilton was fined 50,000 euros, with half of it suspended, for crossing the track during the Qatar Grand Prix following a collision with Mercedes team-mate George Russell

Leading Formula 1 drivers expressed shock at a decision to raise the possible fine that can be imposed on competitors to 1m euros (£871,000).

Governing body the FIA said on Thursday it was quadrupling the maximum fine stewards can impose from 250,000 euros.

“I have no idea what deserves a 1m euros penalty,” said Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

He said the rise was a “huge amount of money” and commented: “Some drivers are making less than that.”

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen said the figure “sounds ridiculous”, while Alpha Tauri’s Daniel Ricciardo said it was “scary”.

The figure is intended as a deterrent to dissuade teams and drivers from the most egregious or dangerous breaches of the regulations and the FIA pointed out that any fines already go towards funding motorsport development programmes

There was no clarity on the sort of offence that a driver or team could commit to be hit with such a fine.

“We do need to be thinking about the message that sends out to those watching,” said seven-time champion Hamilton added: “If they are going be fining a million, let’s make sure 100% goes to a good cause.

“There is a lot of money in this industry and there is a lot more we need to do in terms of creating better accessibility and diversity. That’s the only way they’ll get that million from me.”

Hamilton was recently fined 50,000 euros, with half of it suspended, for crossing the track during a live race at the Qatar Grand Prix earlier this month.

World champion Max Verstappen made reference to the fine he was given for touching the rear wing of Hamilton’s car at the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix.

“If touching a rear wing is $50k, I would like to know what a million is,” he said.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso said: “It sounds not appropriate. It is the first news I had coming from you, so I need to understand better, but we are in a sport that is already considered very elite, very closed.

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“We are raising some topics about sustainability, environment, we are all trying to do our sport to make this sport more accessible for everyone, so when you put this big numbers or something like that, it seems not right.”

The FIA made the decision to raise the fine at a meeting of its legislative body the world motorsport council on Thursday.

A statement said: “This amount has not been reviewed nor amended for at least the last 12 years and does not reflect the current needs of motorsport.”

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I don’t think I was singled out – Hamilton

Hamilton said that a decision by the FIA to announce that it was “revisiting” the incident in Qatar, which followed a collision between the seven-time champion and his team-mate George Russell, had been “poor communication”.

The FIA said that it was reassessing the penalty because “in view of his role-model status, the FIA is concerned about the impression his actions may have created on younger drivers”.

But Hamilton said: “I don’t think I was singled out. I don’t think what they said is what they meant. I think they are going to look into how they can tackle those things moving forwards so those things don’t happen.

“We need to make sure we are continuously focusing on safety. They just need to speak to their PR agent to do a better job.”

He referenced a recent incident in which a driver had crossed the track in a karting event, and said: “What’s important is to send the right message particularly for the younger drivers that that’s not the thing to do.”

Updates for Mercedes and others

Lewis Hamilton on track in the Mercedes during the Qatar Grand PrixMercedes are second in the constructors’ championship, while Lewis Hamilton is third and George Russell sits in eighth place in the drivers’ standings

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Mercedes have a significant upgrade on their car for this weekend’s US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, which they hope will move them forwards competitively and confirm their design direction for next year’s car.

They have struggled for the past two years after pursuing a design direction different from world champions Red Bull and Hamilton has demanded they change tack for 2024.

He said on Thursday: “This is our biggest of the large updates through the season and really excited to see how it feels. Hopefully this tips the scales a bit and puts us in the right direction for where we want to be next season.”

Hamilton’s characterisation of the upgrade was slightly different from that of technical director James Allison earlier this week.

Allison described it as “not transformative” and said it should be worth about 0.1 seconds in lap time.

He added: “It’s in the direction we think is decent, both for producing downforce in the right place, and hopefully being resistant to the bounciness that all these cars nibble at as soon as you try and get much downforce from them.”

Alonso said Aston Martin also have a development for this weekend, while Haas have a major bodywork change that also switches the design philosophy of their car more in the direction of Red Bull.

Meanwhile, Verstappen addressed reports of tension at Red Bull between team principal Christian Horner and motorsport adviser Helmut Marko.

There have been claims that Marko’s future at the team could be in doubt, but Verstappen was dismissive.

“I saw that from the outside people are trying to talk some BS,” he said. “The mood in the team is very good. Everyone knows what their role is. We try to keep that legacy moving forwards.

“Everyone we have right now is important to the success we are having and that is why there are also no changes for the future.”