Formula 1 drivers from across the grid have slammed the FIA’s decision to quadruple the maximum sum a driver can be fined from 250,000 euros to one million. The governing body’s unpopular announcement follows a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Geneva, with the argument that the amount “has not been reviewed or amended for at least 12 years and does not reflect the current needs of motor sport.”
Many drivers only became aware of the decision through the media at the FIA press conference on Thursday, October 19, ahead of the US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas this Sunday. Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc said: “It is a huge amount of money. I have no idea about what deserves a one million euro penalty – but it’s more than… I mean, some drivers are making less than that.”
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen backed up the Monegasque’s statement with his own, saying “yeah, I don’t know what offence it is to be a million but that sounds ridiculous. I mean, Charles can give his watch… but I would disappear, never to be found again.”
It is currently unclear what infraction a driver would have to commit to deserve the sizeable seven figure fine. Two weeks prior, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was fined 50,000 euros for walking across a live Lusail Circuit at the beginning of the 2023 Qatar GP, and Sebastian Vettel was fined 5,000 euros for riding a scooter back to the pits during the 2021 Austrian GP.
While the top earners in F1 enjoy salaries in the tens of millions per year, those just starting out or driving for smaller teams earn much less than the wages that fans might expect.
“I think it’s pretty ridiculous that a driver could be fined one million euros,” said Mercedes’ George Russell, recounting his own experience as a rookie in the sport; “in my first year of Formula 1, I was on a five-figure salary and actually lost over six figures in that first year from paying for my trainer, paying for flights, paying for an assistant. And that’s probably the case for 25 percent of the grid.”
Asking the right question, Russell said “we’re doing what we love, so we’re not complaining about that. But if you take a year one driver who probably by the end of the year is losing over 100,000 euros because of the investments he has to make, you fine them a million. What’s going to happen?”
Russell, who is also the director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association for the second year running, added “we’ve requested before from the FIA to hear where these fines are going toward, what causes they’re going to. It needs to be reinvested into grassroots, but so far we’ve had no response on where that’s going.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton made his thoughts on the matter clear; “if they are going to be fining a million, let’s make sure that 100 percent of that goes to a cause. There’s a lot of money in this whole industry and there’s a lot more that we need to do in terms of creating better accessibility, better diversity, more opportunities for people who wouldn’t normally have a chance to get into a sport like this.
“That’s the only way they’ll get that million from me,” said the seven-time world champion.
Featured image courtesy of REUTERS/Brian Snyder, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton during the press conference ahead of the 2023 United States Grand Prix