FIA takes step away from political speech ‘ban’

Mon, 20 February 2023, 07:00

Feb.20 (GMM) F1’s governing body says it is only interested in limiting drivers’ political gestures and speech “during key moments”.

Last week, seven time world champion Lewis Hamilton broke his silence and joined several other drivers who have criticised the FIA’s new political clampdown.

Alongside the newly-retired Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton was the most prominently outspoken driver on political issues over the past few years, with the pair also using t-shirts and their helmets to get their messages across.

When asked about the new clampdown, championed by controversial FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem who has subsequently taken a step back from day-to-day issues, Hamilton said: “It doesn’t surprise me.

“But nothing will stop me from speaking on the things that I’m passionate about. I am still going to be speaking my mind.”

Hamilton, 38, said he also appreciated the backing of F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, who stepped in to reassure the drivers that their freedom of speech will be protected.

“The support from Stefano has been amazing,” said the Mercedes driver. “All of the drivers have been very much aligned on freedom of speech.”

However, the FIA has now issued a ‘guidance note’ to clarify misunderstandings about the regulations changes.

For instance, the new rules will apply mainly to enforce “neutrality during key moments” of race weekends including “podiums, national anthems and official activities on the field of play”.

An FIA spokesman explained: “It does not impose any additional restrictions on individuals expressing their views outside of these times.”

Therefore, drivers are still free to “express their views on any political, religious or personal matter before, during and after” official activities, including “their own space” like social media.

However, the restrictions will apply “during FIA press conferences” and the pre-race “drivers’ parade”.

Lando Norris is among the drivers hitting out at being treated as though they’re “in school”.

“Maybe sometimes people make silly decisions but that happens in life,” he said. “I hope and believe that enough drivers have said things now to make a bit of a u-turn.”

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