FIA clarifies ban on drivers making political statements

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FILE - Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes reacts in a press conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 17, 2022. Mercedes will return to its all-black color scheme in a bid to shave weight from its car and be competitive again after last year's winless season for Lewis Hamilton. The car was revealed Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023 amid a promise from Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff that the car will be competitive. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, file)

The governing body for Formula One issued guidance Friday on a rule recently introduced that prohibited drivers from speaking out on political and controversial issues.

The FIA's original rule barred “political, religious and personal statements” without prior consent, and expressed no limitations on where that restriction applied. Drivers were nearly unanimous in their criticism of the ruling and seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton said he would not follow the ban.

The guidance issued Friday puts limits on when the FIA can apply the rules — and the restrictions will be upheld during pre- and post-race events and on the track.

The guidance noted 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.”

The FIA will permit the freedom of speech “through their own social media, during interviews with accredited media and during the FIA press conference, only in response to direct questions from journalists.”

The FIA will allow “exceptional” circumstances in which it could grant a driver the ability to make a political statement "at an international competition that would otherwise be prohibited” if that request is submitted to the governing body four weeks in advance of an event.

The driver must “provide reason(s) why such permission should be granted."

The FIA noted "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.

“It was necessary to provide a separate guidance document to facilitate the implementation of the principles of neutrality across the many different motor sport disciplines.”

Hamilton this week 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," he added.

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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