FIA sets limits on political statements by F1 drivers

The International Automobile Federation (FIA), which governs Formula One, has issued guidelines on restrictions that bar drivers from discussing political or controversial subjects. Originally, the rule prohibited “political, religious and personal statements” without prior approval, but did not specify where the restrictions applied. The new guidelines, released on February 19, limit the rule’s application to pre- and post-race events and on the track.

Drivers can “express their views on any political, religious or personal matter before, during and after” the race “in their own space, and outside the scope of the international competition”, according to the updated guidelines. Drivers can discuss political or religious opinions on social media, during media interviews, or in response to direct questions from journalists during FIA press conferences.

In “exceptional” cases, the FIA may permit a driver to make a political statement “at an international competition that would otherwise be prohibited”, but the driver must submit a request to the governing body at least four weeks ahead of the event.

The FIA stated that “the updates cement the FIA’s longstanding commitment to protecting motor sport’s neutrality, and will particularly ensure neutrality during key moments across all motor sport competitions, such as podiums, national anthems and official activities ‘on the field of play’ – it does not impose any additional restrictions on individuals expressing their views outside of these times.”

Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, who had previously stated that he would not follow the ban, said “nothing will stop me from speaking on the things that I am passionate about and the issues that there are. I feel the sport does have a responsibility to speak out on things and raise awareness on certain topics, particularly as we travel to all these places, so nothing changes for me”.

George Russell, his teammate at Mercedes and a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, has called the rule “silly” and “totally unnecessary”.

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