A Brief Investigation Into Where Exactly Lewis Hamilton Is Pierced
1:09 PM EDT on May 8, 2022
A recent Formula One reinforcement of rules about jewelry has caused quite a rift between the sport's rule makers and the greatest driver of this and possibly any other generation. The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) announced earlier in this season that it would enforce items under Appendix L of its International Sporting Code having to do with what drivers are allowed to wear under their race suits, specifically emphasizing that its existing rules prohibit the wearing of jewelry. Lewis Hamilton, an impossibly cool person whose charisma and crossover stardom have been a major accelerant for Formula One's international boom in popularity, has become accustomed over the course of his extraordinary 16-year career to wearing selected items of jewelry throughout race weekends. So accustomed, in fact, that he has accumulated a number of piercings over the years, piercings which now hold items of jewelry that he would be very reluctant to remove.
The FIA evidently feels strongly enough about these regulations that they are willing to engage in a battle of wills with the biggest star in all of racing, up to and including forcing Hamilton at least temporarily out of the sport. The British driver reiterated Friday, ahead of Sunday's first-ever Miami Grand Prix, that he is perfectly willing to be banned from participating in this or any other race, if it comes to it. For Hamilton, it's both a matter of personal expression and also a practical concern: Hamilton explained ahead of the Australian Grand Prix in April that certain piercings—those in his right ear, for example—are "literally welded in" and they would have to be "chopped off or something like that" in order to be safely removed.
But those ear piercings apparently aren't the only ones that can't be simply unclipped. Back in April, before the FIA had allowed this conflict to become quite so serious, Hamilton hinted that he had other, less visible piercings, the removal of which would be close to impossible. "I've got certain piercings that I really just can't take out, that not many people know of," he explained during a pre-race press session, to the general amusement of the room. Hamilton quickly assured everyone that he was merely having a laugh, before pivoting to a shared joke with Max Verstappen about a secret nipple-piercing hidden under the Red Bull driver's racing suit.
Because Hamilton said aloud the words "nipple-piercing" in his delightful back-and-forth with Verstappen, this suggested that the joke about "certain piercings" on his own body referred to an adornment of an even more private area of his person. Certainly it is not impossible that Hamilton is referring to a piercing of any flap of skin below the neckline, but his Instagram account is useful for confirming that the handsome and stylish fellow does not have any piercings between his mouth and his waistline—or, at least, none that cannot be removed for a sexy photo op:
Still, this phrasing by Hamilton appeared to be a joke at the time, nothing to take too literally. Surely Hamilton, however cool and daring he might be, is not driving around at 200 miles-per-hour with a metal object inserted down there.
Matters have gotten significantly more serious in the weeks since then. Hamilton was granted a two-race grace period to work out the safe removal of his various piercings, but he has only gotten more resolute that this will not be done. This has set the stage for a scenario in which Hamilton shows up for the Monaco Grand Prix on the final weekend in May, is checked for piercings by some poor race steward in what will, for sure, be one of the most surreal moments of either of their racing careers, and is banned from participating in Formula One's signature event. This would be an unbelievably stupid outcome for the sport.
Speaking Friday while pointedly wearing what seemed like several dozen items of jewelry, Hamilton took a much more serious tone about the jewelry ban. "If they stop me [from racing], then so be it, we've got a spare driver," he explained, without so much as a hint that this could be a bluff. "When they told me about the jewelry, they said safety is everything. And I said, 'Well, what's happened over the last 16 years? I've had jewelry for the last 16 years, so was safety not an issue back then?"
It is precisely because this matter has become very serious that I had no choice but to sit up and take notice when Hamilton, again, referred to those "certain piercings" which must go unnamed but, he said, cannot be removed. When the matter came up ahead of Miami's race weekend, Hamilton once again seemed to gesture below the belt:
Asked what the solution might be to an apparent impasse, Hamilton indicated there was only so much he could do."I can't remove at least two of them," he said. "One I can't really explain where it is. But what I can say is it's platinum that I have, so it's non-magnetic, it's never been a safety issue in the past."Reuters
There are some colorfully named parts of the ear that are routinely pierced—the daith, the rook, the tragus—but presumably Hamilton would not feel that any of the immediately visible piercings on his body could not be described, to say nothing of just pointing at them. We can therefore safely rule out all of his head piercings, and we have already confirmed, using available visual evidence, that Hamilton's upper midsection is un-punctured. We would not want to assume that we have narrowed the "certain piercings" down all the way to the groin region without first eliminating the possibility, however unlikely, that Hamilton has a piercing or two below his upper thigh. Fortunately, we can turn once more to Hamilton's Instagram account, where our hero is not above occasionally showing feet:
I do not detect any flashes of platinum anywhere on Hamilton's lower legs, and it seems beyond consideration to suggest that he might have a welded-on piercing somewhere on his Achilles tendon. At this point I feel that we simply have no choice but to make a ruling and bang the gavel: If Lewis Hamilton really does have a "certain piercing" that he cannot remove and cannot describe, and that cannot be seen on race day, the likeliest scenario is that we have a Prince Albert situation on our hands.
Before you adopt the position that Hamilton is being pointlessly stubborn about all of this, it's worth reviewing and interrogating what precisely is motivating the FIA to suddenly emphasize enforcement of this rule, after at least 16 years of looking the other way. Race director Niels Wittich reportedly said in his memo earlier this year that it's a matter of burn protection having to do with metal's capacity for heat transmission, and that jewelry can become "snagged" when medical personnel attempt to remove a driver's helmet or overalls in an emergency situation. But, as Hamilton and others have pointed out, it's tough to accept this safety-based defense when the sorts of incidents that would make the wearing of jewelry particularly troublesome—crashes that involve a driver being stuck in a burning car—are already profoundly dangerous in a way that makes any potential snagging injuries seem insignificant.
Hamilton is not the only driver who suspects that safety concerns cannot entirely account for the FIA's sudden crackdown. Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel lamented what seems to him to be "more of a personal thing, and I feel particularly in a way targeted to Lewis." That the governing body cannot come up with anything better than we suddenly care about this, after 16 years of not caring is not inspiring a lot of confidence.
As Kevin Magnussen explained it, if it's a matter of liability, most drivers would be willing to "take that responsibility" when the consequences of a jewelry injury seem so minor compared to the dangers they already face: "I'll take a little bit of extra burn on my finger to race in my wedding ring." Hamilton is evidently making the same calculation, which seems reasonable enough, even if the area in question is considerably more sensitive, in more ways than one.
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