Lewis Hamilton, the British Formula One driver, has escaped a driving conviction despite pleading guilty to reckless driving just yards from the Australian grand prix racing track.
The 25 year-old, who did not attend court in Australia, was fined $AUD500 (€351) after admitting driving his Mercedes sports car illegally across the streets of southeast Melbourne in March.
The McLaren driver was seen by police generating clouds of smoke by spinning the wheels of his high-powered car and slewing the back wheels across the tarmac, manoeuvres known as a "burnout" and "fishtailing".
Melbourne magistrates’ court on Tuesday heard the former Formula 1 World Champion’s actions were illegal under tough new local driving laws, in what Australian authorities describe as “hoon driving”, a phrase used to descibe reckless drivers.
The court heard his luxurious silver €63,000 AMG C63 sports car was impounded by authorities near the Albert Park circuit in the days leading up to this year’s Australian grand prix.
Hamilton, who earns around £20m (€24m) a year, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to one count of "driving a vehicle causing loss of traction".
Magistrate Clive Alsop fined him the maximum amount but declined to record a driving conviction after the court heard the driver was ashamed and remorseful.
Despite Mr Aslop saying Hamilton had abused his high-profile position of “authority and influence” and that he should have acted responsibility, he said it was his first offence and he had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
"This isn't about somebody's character, this is about somebody in a responsible position behaving like a hoon," Mr Alsop said.
"It doesn't show the general application of the level of responsibility and maturity that he must use every day on the racetrack.”
Sandip Mukerjea, defending Hamilton, had earlier said his client had publicly apologised and had suffered "embarrassment, humiliation and distress" in the media.
"He is a man who understands and appreciates his position as a role model for young people," he told the court.
The court heard he had written a letter to the court explaining why he could not be present as he was expected to compete in the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend.
He also tendered a written apology, where he said he regretted his "momentary lapse of judgment" and admitted setting a poor example to young drivers.
"I fully accept that I am a public figure and I consider that I have a duty to act as a role model to youngsters, particularly in relation to road safety matters," he wrote.
"The publicity caused by this incident was immense and that in itself has been a form of punishment for me.
"I have found this very upsetting because I am passionate about road safety and I do voluntarily carry out activities to promote international road safety, particularly among young adults.”
Despite being “in control of the car at all times”, he added: "I made a mistake in Melbourne, which I sincerely regret.”
David Ward, the director-general of the FIA Foundation, the governing body for international motorsport, had also provided a character reference.
Later, John Brumby, the Victoria state premier, said Hamilton had set a "bad example" and urged him to make a donation to local driving education programmes.
He admitted the fine would have little impact on the multi-millionaire driver.
"He is allowed to drive fast on the race tracks but he is not allowed to drive fast on our suburban streets,'' Mr Brumby told reporters in Melbourne.
"Lewis Hamilton set a bad example, he's been fined for that, and the more he can say about the dangers of speeding, I think the better it would be for him and the better for our community.”
The acutely embarrassing incident marked a low point in an unhappy race meet for the British driver.
Starting 11th on the grid, he made his way through the field only to be bumped off the track by Australian Mark Webber with two laps remaining. He finished the race in sixth place.
Hamilton's off-circuit driving has previously fallen foul of the law.
Less than three years ago, his Mercedes-Benz CLK sports car was impounded after he was caught speeding at 123mph on a French motorway.
Hamilton has won two races this season but lost his championship lead to Mark Webber after failing to finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix earlier this month.
He trails the Australian by four points. The impounded car was recently auctioned for charity.