Formula One drivers expressed shock and amazement on Thursday after the sport’s governing body quadrupled the amount stewards can fine them to a maximum of one million euros ($1.06 million).
The change to the International Sporting Code (ISC) was approved at a meeting of the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council in Geneva.
It said the previous maximum of 250,000 euros had not been reviewed or amended for at least the last 12 years “and does not reflect the current needs of motor sport.”
Mercedes’ George Russell, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA), said the new maximum “seems obscene”.
“In my first year of Formula One (at Williams), I was on a five-figure salary and actually lost over six figures from paying for my trainer, paying for flights, paying for an assistant,” he told reporters at the U.S. Grand Prix.
“Charles can give his watch but I would disappear, never to be found again,” added the Dane.
Leclerc had an exclusive Richard Mille watch, which reports valued at more than $2 million, stolen off his wrist in Italy last year.
Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, who was fined $50,000 in Qatar two weekends ago for crossing a live track in an incident that the FIA is reviewing, said it was the first he had heard of it.
“If they are going to be fining a million, let’s make sure that 100% of that goes to a cause,” added the Briton, whose latest contract will pay him a reported £50m ($60.71m) a year.
“There’s a lot of money in this whole industry and there’s a lot more 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.
“So many causes around the world. So, yeah. That’s the only way they’ll get that million from me.”
Now-triple world champion Max Verstappen was fined €50,000 in 2021 for touching the rear wing of Hamilton’s car after qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
“If touching a rear wing is 50k then I would like to know what one mill is,” said the Red Bull driver.
Formula One has seen some of the biggest fines in any sport, with McLaren famously fined $100m and stripped of constructors’ points in a 2007 spying controversy involving Ferrari information.
The British team ultimately paid half that amount after the fine was reduced by the loss of revenue resulting from being stripped of their points.
Red Bull were fined $7m last year for breaching the sport’s cost cap in 2021.
“We just want transparency and understanding. I think already the fines are getting out of control,” said Russell.
“It feels like these numbers are being plucked out the air.”