In what was a far cry from the tensions of their titanic F1 title battle last season, Hamilton and Verstappen enjoyed an amusing light-hearted moment during the pre-event press conferences ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. 

Ahead of F1’s return to Melbourne, the event’s race director Niels Wittich reminded the field of a long-standing rule that bans drivers from wearing any form of jewellery when driving their cars. 

The full wording of the rule, which forms Article 5 of the third chapter of Appendix L from the governing body’s International Sporting Code, states: “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.”

Asked about the FIA’s reminder, Hamilton, who is regularly seen wearing jewellery in the F1 paddock, joked: “Well I’ve got certain piercings that I really just can’t take out, that not many people know of… Nah I’m kidding! 

“It’s been the rule forever, since I’ve been here it’s been the rule, so nothing new. I’m just going to come with more jewellery next week.” 

Hamilton’s former Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas quipped that the “stewards can take it off”. 

Asked the same question, Verstappen replied deadpan: “I would be too heavy if I wore jewellery, so it’s not possible.”

A smiling Hamilton responded: “I know you have a nipple piercing man, come on…” before Verstappen laughed and said “you want to see it again?!”

A better weekend for Mercedes in Melbourne? 

Mercedes has endured a difficult start to the season and is struggling to get on top of a porpoising issue that has so far hampered the performance of its W13 car. 

The German manufacturer has not brought any new parts to this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix but is expected to introduce upgrades in a phased manner across the next few races in a bid to address the problem. 

Hamilton, who is something of a specialist around the Albert Park Circuit with eight pole positions to his name, ended up seventh-fastest in FP1, 1.2 seconds off the pace set by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz

“I’m excited to get in the car, naturally I’ve been buzzing and super eager this morning just to get in the car and try this new track,” Hamilton said prior to the session. 

“I’m hoping that it feels better here this weekend. Ultimately we’ve not brought any upgrades, the car is the same car as the last race but with every race we make small improvements. 

“So I hope it feels a bit better here. Plus we have the four DRS zones, I’m just hoping we can race harder here.” 

Speaking ahead of the event, team principal Toto Wolff conceded Mercedes would have to make the most of its current package until a solution to the team’s problems can be found. 

"At the moment, our track performance is not meeting our own expectations, but everyone at Brackley and Brixworth is focused on understanding the problems and finding the right solutions,” Wolff said. 

"There won't be a magic fix for the next race weekend, but we're pushing to steadily bring gains over the upcoming races, to hopefully move us closer to the front of the pack.

"Until then, we need to maximise each opportunity and make the most of the package we have."