Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean sparked a lively debate in the Suzuka drivers’ meeting when he quizzed race director Charlie Whiting over Lewis Hamilton’s habit of taking his seatbelts off to celebrate after race wins.
Hamilton clearly undid his belts to celebrate winning the Singapore Grand Prix, and admitted he had done so on numerous occasions beforehand.
At the start of the Japanese Grand Prix drivers' briefing on Friday evening, Whiting also brought up Sebastian Vettel’s slowing-down lap clash with Lance Stroll at Sepang, and his subsequent ride back to the pits on the sidepod of Pascal Wehrlein. Whiting suggested he should have waited for the medical car, which Vettel nodded agreement with.
Hamilton then queried up the fact that Vettel did not put his steering wheel back on, but took it with him instead. Whiting said no action was “reasonable common sense” decision as the steering wheel wasn’t needed for the marshals to move the car, as the race had finished.
After this, the floor was open and Grosjean seized upon the seatbelt subject…
Grosjean: “After the chequered flag are allowed to undo the belts?”
Whiting: “No. Any further?”
Grosjean: “Well I think Lewis has been doing it quite a lot.”
Whiting: “Loosening them is reasonable, rather than taking them off completely.”
Grosjean: “I’m just asking, I think it’s great for the fans, but I wanted to mention it.”
Whiting: “At the speeds Lewis was driving at, I think that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Loosen them, not undo them.”
Felipe Massa chimes in: “But you cannot loosen them. It’s very difficult, you need to take it off.”
Whiting: “I was asked a question and I said, no, you should not undo them, but if you can loosen them off, I don’t see a big issue with that. Lewis, what do you do, do you loosen them or undo them?”
Hamilton [smiles, then]: “Undo them. I don’t do it very often, Montreal I did, a few other races.”
Whiting: “You might have started something here Romain…”
Grosjean: “I think it’s great for the fans to see a bit more of the driver. But I just wanted to get a clarification.”
Hamilton: “Why would you need clarification on it?”
Grosjean: “Because sometimes you don’t put the steering wheel back on and you can get a fine, and it doesn’t make sense if the wheels are completely off of the car. So I just wanted to know.”
Hamilton [shrugs]: “Interesting.”
Whiting: “We can clarify it if you really think it’s worth it…”
Hamilton: “We’re driving so slowly, man. But, I mean, maybe Sebastian should keep his on.”
Vettel [smiling]: “Steering wheel or belts? I’m confused now.”
Whiting: “That is something we’ve seen happen, isn’t it [referring to Vettel’s Sepang crash]? Needn’t have but it did and something similar could happen.”
Grosjean: “I don’t want to start an argument or whatever, I just want to know the rules, simple as that.”
Whiting: “Well I don’t think you should undo your belts. I think we’ve see what can happen on a slowing-down lap, so I think it’s a very bad practice to undo your belts.”
Hamilton: “I’ve only done it when I win to wave to fans.”
Whiting: “I understand, yes.”
Hamilton: “But I do slow down massively.”