FIA clarification: F1 drivers have freedom of speech - if they ask for it

The FIA has clarified its ruling on driver political statements...

Paige Rutter
26th February 2023
Image: Twitter @redbulletin
The FIA has been under fire recently due to updating its International Sporting Code, where it set out a requirement that drivers who wanted to make a political statement would have to seek permission. 

Stating that drivers would be in breach of the rules if they were to express a “display of political, religious and personal statements” without approval. 

With much confusion about what drivers were able to say and do, the FIA provided some clarification stating that they would be able to express themselves and opinions in their own time. This including the likes of social media or interviews outside of the international competition. 

They provided three main areas in which statements should not be made these include on the tracks during parades and national anthems, FIA press conferences and pre- or post-race procedures such as the podium. 

Twitter: (@LewisHamilton)

If a driver is therefore wanting to make a political statement outside of this, they must seek approval four weeks in advance of the race/event. If approval is granted, it will only be applied to one particular event that it has been approved for and will expire after. If a request is also rejected, there will be no appealing the decision of the FIA. 

There is no surprise that this has caused frustration amongst drivers who often use their platform to raise awareness on current issues. Lewis Hamilton being one who has often raised awareness on multiple issues such as, the death of Breonna Taylor and donning his LGBTQ+ supporting rainbow helmet. It is likely that if the seven-time World Champion wanted to do such actions now he would need to seek permission before doing so and provide reasons as to why it should be given. 

Hamilton has spoken up on this change stating at the launch of the 2023 Mercedes livery, “Nothing will stop me from speaking on things I am passionate about”. Going on further to say that “The sport has a responsibility to speak out” and highlights this specifically when it comes to “travelling to different places”. 

The 38-year-old was praised for first wearing a rainbow helmet during events in places such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia during the 2021 season. The Mercedes driver expressed at the time “If anyone wants to take the time to read what the law is for the LGBT+ community, it is pretty terrifying”. Followed up by a tweet stating, “Equality for all.”, and a picture of the helmet. Other drivers have also expressed their opinions on the tracks, including Sebastian Vettel wearing a pride t-shirt during the Hungarian 2021 Grand Prix.

Various drivers expressed their opinions on this change with Lando Norris saying “We shouldn’t have to ask about everything and say, ‘can we do this?’”. Comparing the new rules to being treated like children, “we’re not in school”. 

The ‘We Race as One’ campaign was launched by F1 in 2020, with the focus of increasing equality and sustainability. Alex Albon, stated at the 2023 Williams launch that “it seems that the FIA are moving away from that” regarding the scheme and many would agree. 

It is not long until the drivers hit the tracks for the 2023 season, but will they be keeping quiet whilst doing so? 

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