Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton has always been vocal about his opinions on FIA regulations. AFP / CHANDAN KHANNA

Ahead of this weekend's United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas, Formula 1 drivers were shocked to find out that they could soon be facing fines of up to one million euros.

The decision to quadruple the maximum allowable fine that stewards can impose was made during the recently concluded meeting of the World Motorsport Council in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting was led by FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who has been behind a number of massive changes in the sport since taking the top post in December 2021.

Lewis Hamilton refuses to pay fines

Fans and participants have all been increasingly aware of the tightening noose around the sport in recent years when it comes to handing out penalties both on and off the track. Some were handed time penalties, while others were slapped with fines.

In recent memory, some of the more notable examples are Max Verstappen's €50,000 fine for touching the rear wing of rival Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes in Parc Ferme in Brazil 2021. Then, numerous memes have come out about French driver Esteban Ocon after receiving multiple time penalties on top of each other in quick succession. Likewise, so many drivers have had their races ruined after seeing their best times deleted after exceeding track limits.

Most recently, Hamilton was slapped with a €50,000 fine (£43.5k) for crossing the live race track after crashing in the first lap of the Qatar Grand Prix. He collided with his Mercedes teammate George Russell, and after exiting his beached car, Hamilton crossed the track to make his way back to the paddock.

Understandably, he was one of the first to react when he found out about the new maximum penalty that drivers will soon be facing. He made it clear that he will refuse to pay unless it is laid out exactly how the money will be used.

He said: "It 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."

Other divers are also shocked by the new ruling

Hamilton's teammate also had some choice words to say about the fines, according to Sun Sport, Russell said: "I think it's pretty ridiculous that a driver could be fined a million Euros."

He added that requests have previously been made for the FIA to provide a report on where the fines end up, but they have so far been ignored. Russell claims that there has been no transparency nor clarity on the side of the FIA when it comes to showing where the money is invested. He called the amount "obscene" before explaining that some of the drivers probably can't even afford to pay such fines.

"In my first year in F1, I was on a five-figure salary and actually lost over six figures in that first year paying for a trainer, flights, an assistant and that's probably the case for 25 per cent of the grid," said Russell. He added that the made up amounts are being "plucked out of the air" with no clear justification.

Meanwhile, one of the top earners on the grid, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, is not happy either: "It's a huge amount of money. I have no idea what deserves a 1m euros penalty, some drivers are making less than that."

Kevin Magnussen and Daniel Ricciardo have labelled the new fines as "ridiculous" and "scary".

What did the FIA say?

The maximum penalty that could be slapped on a driver was previously only €250,000, meaning that the amount is now four times as much. The decision was made without prior consultation with the drivers and their teams, and it has come as a surprise to everyone on the grid.

"There needs to be a much better dialogue between FIA and drivers," said Russell.

In the FIA report following the meeting, the following statement was given to explain the change:

The ISC had previously determined that the maximum fine amount that the stewards can imposed is 250,000 euros. This amount has not been reviewed nor amended for at least the last twelve years and does not reflect the current needs of motor sport, and the World Council therefore approved an update to this maximum limit in certain championships as follows:

  • FIA Formula One World Championship – 1,000,000 euros
  • All other FIA World Championships – 750,000 euros
  • All other FIA Championships, cups, trophies, challenges or series – 500,000 euros

There was no further explanation on how the money would be used. It now remains to be seen if decision will be upheld amid the pushback from the drivers.