MELBOURNE, Australia -- Driver underwear, or the lack thereof, was an unexpected focal point during Friday evening's Formula One driver briefing at Albert Park.
New race director Niels Wittich informed all drivers ahead of the Australian Grand Prix that the sport would begin clamping down on what they are allowed to wear underneath their race suits, stressing that it must comply with the FIA's long-standing regulations.
Under Appendix L of the FIA's International Sporting Code, drivers must wear fireproof underwear which adheres to the FIA's strict standard. They are unable to wear any material which doesn't meet the requirements.
"It was quite a long discussion [and] a few people have changed some of their underwear protocols," Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri, who attended the driver briefing, told Sky Sports. "It's a contentious topic because you're going commando if you're not wearing your own."
The drivers will be given a number of events before enforcement of the rules are applied. If a driver is found to be non-compliant with these regulations after F1's grace period, the likely punishment would be a fine or reprimand.
The clampdown on driver underwear comes just 24 hours after Wittich, who earlier this year replaced Michael Masi as one of F1's race directors, had released his event notes for the race in Melbourne. In the document he issued a reminder to drivers that jewellery is also banned when in the car.
"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," read section 5.1 of the event notes.
The reminder prompted an entertaining back-and-forth between 2021 title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the pre-race press conference on Friday morning.
Hamilton joked: "I've got certain piercings that I really just can't take out that not many people know of ... No, I'm kidding, I'm kidding!"
Verstappen then commented: "I will be too heavy if I wear jewellery, so it's not possible."
"I know you have a nipple-piercing, man. Come on," Hamilton responded, before Verstappen asked "you want to see it again?"
Not everyone is seeing the light side of Wittich's strict race director approach, however. Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes a slightly more lenient view could be taken, particularly in regard to on-track incidents during practice after several drivers were reprimanded for impeding rivals on Friday.
"I've yet to meet the race director. Obviously they are doing the best job they can with the rules they have ... but there needs to be an element of common sense," said Horner. "We need to come up with a way to simplify some of these regulations.
"[There were] too many penalties in practice one, on a circuit that is relatively new and so on. You don't want to be too overzealous, I would think."
On Friday, Sebastian Vettel was also handed a €5,000 fine for riding a track marshal's scooter back to the pitlane after his Aston Martin lost power and had to be parked at Turn 10.