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Irish Independent

‘We’ve got a spare driver’ – Lewis Hamilton not backing down in Miami Grand Prix jewellery row

McLaren driver Lando Norris of Britain talks with a reporter during an interview during preparations for the Miami Grand Prix at Miami International Autodrome

Lewis Hamilton indicated he was ready to withdraw from Sunday's Miami Grand Prix in his ongoing jewellery row with Formula One's governing body.

Hamilton arrived for Thursday's official FIA press conference wearing a ring on every finger, a series of necklaces, a bracelet, piercings in both ears and three watches - two on his left wrist and one on his right - in a clear show of defiance.

The ban on drivers wearing jewellery in the cockpit has been in place for a number of years. But the ruling is now being enforced by new F1 race director Niels Wittich and Mohammed ben Sulayem, the FIA president.

But, in response, seven-time world champion Hamilton said: "If they stop me then so be it. We've got a spare driver, so we're well prepped for the weekend. There's lots to do in the city anyway."

Dutchman Nick de Vries, 27, who has never raced in F1, is Mercedes' reserve driver here. The teams received a scrutineering message from the FIA on Wednesday afternoon, stating: "The wearing of jewellery in the form of body piercing or metal neck chains is prohibited during the competition and may therefore be checked before the start."

Explaining the ruling, the FIA continued: "Metallic objects, such as jewellery, in contact with the skin can reduce heat transmission protection and thus may increase the risk of burn injuries in the event of a fire.

"The wearing of jewellery during the competition can hinder both medical interventions as well as subsequent diagnosis and treatment should it be required following an accident.

"The presence of jewellery can slow the emergency removal of driver safety equipment such as helmet, balaclava, and overalls.

"Jewellery in and/or around the airway can pose specific additional risks should it become dislodged during an accident and either ingested or inhaled."

However, Hamilton said: "It is almost like it is a step backwards when you think about the steps we are taking as a sport and the more important issues we need to be focusing on.

"We have made such great strides and this is such a small thing. I have been in the sport for 16 years and I have been wearing jewellery for 16 years. In the car, I only have my earrings on and my nose ring, which I cannot remove.

"It seems unnecessary for us to get into this spat so I will try to communicate and work with Mohammed.

"I am here to be an ally of the sport, an ally of Mohammed, and of Formula One and we have got bigger fish to fry, bigger things to do and more impact to have and that should be where the focus is."

The PA news agency understands Hamilton will require a medical exemption to prove his piercings cannot be removed to avoid a sanction from the FIA.

At last weekend's FIA-accredited Formula E race in Monaco, Pascal Wehrlein and Mitch Evans were handed a suspended 1,000 Euros (£855) fine and a point on their licences for wearing necklaces in the cockpit.

Hamilton added: "As I said, I can't remove at least two of the piercings. One I can't really explain where it is. But it is platinum, so it's not magnetic.

"It's never been a safety issue in the past. I am willing to sign a waiver to take the responsibility away from the FIA if I need to. It is about individuality and being who you are.

"I did try to call Mohammed this morning. I sent him a message just to reassure him that I don't want to fight with the FIA over this. This is very, very silly. I have not heard back yet, but I will try and speak to him before the race."

Hamilton heads into Sunday's first grand prix in Miami 57 points behind championship leader Charles Leclerc. Hamilton finished 13th in Imola and was lapped by Max Verstappen a fortnight ago.

Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko poked fun at Hamilton by saying he should have retired last year, while Hamilton's former rival Nico Rosberg was also critical of the Briton's performance.

"It has been interesting to see there has been quite a lot of disrespectful comments," said Hamilton. "It is to be expected. I just keep my head down. I know who I am, I know what I do, I love what I do.

"We are going through a tough time. We didn't come out the starting blocks as we wanted this year, but we are fighters and if you don't know that about me then you just don't know me."