17 December 2021

Lewis Hamilton set to be punished for skipping gala, suggests new FIA president

17 December 2021

Lewis Hamilton is set to face punishment for skipping the FIA’s season-ending gala in Paris this week, the newly-elected president of Formula One’s governing body has confirmed.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem said he had sympathy for Hamilton but insisted that rules must be followed and added: “If there is any breach, there is no forgiveness on this.”

Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff skipped the Thursday night gala, despite Article 6.6 of the F1 regulations requiring the top three drivers in the Championship to be present. It is unclear what type of sanctions are at the FIA’s disposal.

“Forgiveness is always there but rules are rules,” added Ben Sulayem, who was elected on Friday after receiving just under 62 per cent of the vote in a two-horse race with Britain’s Graham Stoker.

“They are there to be improved but we have to look if there is any breach. It doesn’t stop us from making a champion feel good about the sport.”

The 60-year-old from the United Arab Emirates refused to be drawn on the implications of the controversial ending to last Sunday’s Championship-deciding Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, other than to confirm that procedures would be put in place to avoid any future such confusion.

“I have promised we will look into the rules and make sure that any situation of this sort that occurs in the future, we will have an instant solution for it,” added Ben Sulayem.

If there is any breach, there is no forgiveness on this.

“We had a meeting with the drivers and I feel that what happened has been declared now. The FIA took a decision, we discussed it and there was a statement, and now we have to start the new season.

“We have to be proactive and reactive. I feel it is a time where as a driver I would be so upset for a while, but time is a factor that will cool. After the holidays and Christmas, in the new year we will start afresh.”

Ben Sulayem will inherit a promise from his predecessor Jean Todt to embark upon a “detailed analysis and clarification exercise” in the wake of the Abu Dhabi controversy, which culminated in Max Verstappen claiming his maiden world crown.

Ben Sulayem is a former 14-time Middle East Rally champion, and has been president of the Emirates Motorsports Organisation since 2005.

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