SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Formula One great Lewis Hamilton was cleared to race for Mercedes at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix after having his jewelry inspected on Friday.

Hamilton clashed with governing body FIA last year over the wearing of jewelry, and his nose stud was cleared at the Singapore GP in October.

Hamilton explained to stewards at the time that he had to keep the stud in because of complications linked to a blood blister on his nose, which occurred because he kept having to take the stud out for races.

The FIA did not mention his nose stud in its statement on Friday, but said in its verdict that the seven-time F1 champion received a medical exemption relating to “concerns about disfigurement.”

The stewards considered a breach of Article 5 of the FIA sporting code — the wearing of jewelry — and took no further action against Hamilton after hearing from a Mercedes team representative and receiving a medical report requesting an exemption.

“The stewards consulted the FIA medical delegate, who viewed the medical report, examined the driver and concurred with the opinion therein,” the FIA statement said. “We have determined to take no further action as there are concerns about disfigurement with frequent attempts at removal of the device.”

Last May, Hamilton protested the FIA crackdown on jewelry — such as body piercings — by showing up at the Miami GP wearing every piece of jewelry he could fit on his body and suggesting he was willing to sit out races over the issue.

He kept his nose stud in at the Monaco GP in late May after FIA extended the exemption on drivers wearing jewelry, but expressed frustration at the issue.

“Honestly, I feel like there’s just way too much time and energy being given to this,” Hamilton said in Monaco. “We shouldn’t have to keep on revisiting this thing every weekend. We’ve definitely got bigger fish to fry.”

Hamilton failed to win a race last year for the first time in his career dating to 2007.

On Friday, he was 10th in the first practice — around two seconds behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez — and eighth in the second session, which finished under floodlights at the desert track in Sakhir.

He feels Mercedes, which won only one race in 2022 through George Russell, is still far off the pace from favorite Red Bull.

“We’re a long way off. We kind of knew that a little bit in the (preseason) test,” Hamilton said. “Red Bull on the long runs were a second-a-lap faster.”

Russell was 11th in P1 and drifted to 13th in P2.

“We’ve got a lot to work with,” Hamilton said. “I think I’ve got the car to the best place I can get it, set-up wise. We’ll continue to tweak bits here and there.”


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