The International Automobile Federation (FIA) has announced a new rule for the 2023 season preventing drivers in the Formula 1 grid from making political statements at Grand Prix without prior consent from the governing body. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are two drivers known for campaigning on various social issues.
The FIA updated their International Sporting Code outlining a new offence. Article 12.2.1.n, a new article states drivers will be deemed to have committed a breach of the rules by “making and displaying of political, religious, and personal statements or comments notably in violation of the general principle of neutrality promoted by the FIA under its statuses, unless previously approved in writing by the FIA for International competitions or by the relevant ASN for National Competitions within their jurisdiction.”
Valterri Bottas has criticised the FIA saying he doesn’t understand why they are trying to “control drivers” He went on to say “I don’t like politics…. At the same time politics is part of todays society. I think Formula 1 does well to draw attention to some problems. Many drivers raise their voices, like Sebastian (Vettel)”
The ban comes following drivers using the pre-race ceremonies to highlight causes such as racism and climate change. Sebastian Vettel is known to wear t-shirts highlighting climate issues. He adorned a T-shirt with the words “Miami 2060 1st Grand Prix under water”.
Lewis Hamilton also wore a black T-shirt at the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix with “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” on the front and a photo of her on the back with “Say her name” printed on it.
Hamilton and Vettel both used helmets with a rainbow helmet showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community. Hamilton wearing his in the Middle East and Vettel in Hungary, whilst also wearing a rainbow-coloured T-shirt with “Same love” printed on the front.
David Coulthard has come out to support the new rule suggesting it is better for the drivers to “concentrate on the sport”. Coulthard likened it to an acceptance speech at the Oscars saying, “if everyone uses the opportunity to make a political statement, there is no issue that is not important to someone”.
McLaren’s CEO, Zak Brown has also come out in support of the new rule stating driver activism is “out of control”.
Amid this the FIA have become embroiled in another controversy following the president Mohammed Ben Sulayem taking to social media to show his concerns about the implications of an exaggerated price for Formula 1.
In 200 the FIA signed over a lease for the rights of F1 with the governing body agreeing to not get involved in any commercial matters. With Ben Sulayem’s comments on twitter leading to F1’s legal department expressing its concerns that the remarks “interfered” with F1’s commercial rights territory.
A spokesperson for the FIA said the update was “in alignment with the political neutrality of sport” as enshrined in the International Olympic Committee code of ethics.