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FIA clarifies clampdown on F1 drivers making political statements

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FIA clarifies clampdown on F1 drivers making political statements

Nate Saunders and Laurence Edmondson3 Minute Read

The FIA has issued a clarification around its controversial clampdown on political protests in Formula One, insisting any statement at a grand prix would still require permission from the governing body.

In December the FIA updated its International Sporting Code with a clause requiring prior written permission for drivers to make or display “political, religious and personal statements or comments.”

Lewis Hamilton is among the drivers to have publicly criticised this rule change, saying nothing will stop him from speaking out on issues he cares about.

McLaren’s Lando Norris likened the rule to the drivers being treated like school kids, while Williams’ Alex Albon said all the drivers are opposed to the clampdown.

There was confusion over exactly what the rule change did and did not cover, but on Friday the FIA elaborated with more details.

Drivers are free to express themselves in their own time but the FIA has clarified three key areas where drivers are not allowed to make certain statements, as outlined in Friday’s document.

  • FIA press conferences (except in response to direct questions from accredited journalists);

  • activities on the track (Course) area or equivalent (e.g., during the Drivers Parade and the national anthem);

  • or pre-race / post-race procedures or equivalent (e.g., the podium ceremony, in the cool down room, or at the start- and end-of-season group photos.

This suggests political protests on a race helmet would be forbidden without permission.

Drivers wanting to be given permission for protests outside of this scope must do so in writing four weeks before the event in question.

The FIA also outlined examples of what would be considered a political, religious or personal statement.

In a long list, which the governing body stressed was not exhaustive, political statements included the following in the form of an “image, symbol, gesture, words, or actions.”

  • Any politically-associated or politically-sensitive person(s) living or dead (unless part of the official competition name).

  • Any local, regional, national, or international political party/ organisation/group

  • Any specific political act/ event.

  • Any military conflict or political dispute between nations, regions, religions, or communities.

  • Any specific ethnic or indigenous communities, or perceived discrimination by one community against another.

The FIA encouraged anyone aware of a potential breach to notify the event’s race director or clerk of the course, who would then report the matter to the stewards of the meeting to make a decision on whether a breach had occurred.

The stewards will have a wide range of potential punishments available to them for any infringement, including warnings, reprimands, fines (up to 250,000 Euros), and a large variety of sporting penalties including exclusion from an event.

An FIA spokesperson said: “A Guidance Note has been issued to Participants in International Competitions that sets out the scope of the updates made to the FIA International Sporting Code in December. 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.

“The Guidance Note does not alter Article 12.2.1.n of the FIA International Sporting Code. 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.”

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