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Silence: Formula 1 drivers banned from political speech, unless approved

Formula 1 drivers will need prior written permission from the sport’s governing body to make a ‘political statement’ from next season following an update of the International Sports Code.


Update on:
11:27 am on December 21, 2022

Profile photo of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton wearing a Breonna Taylor-related shirt on the podium as he celebrates after winning a race.  (Summarized via REUTERS)
Profile photo of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton wearing a Breonna Taylor-related shirt on the podium as he celebrates after winning a race. (Summarized via REUTERS)

The 2023 version of the code, which applies to all vehicle models approved by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), has been published on the regulator’s website with the changes highlighted.

The FIA ​​added a new provision regarding “the general posting and display of political, religious and personal statements or remarks that notably violate the FIA-promoted general principle of neutrality.” according to its statutes.”

Drivers making such statements will now be breaking the rules unless the FIA, whose president Mohammed Ben Sulayem of the United Arab Emirates, has previously given written approval.

The sport previously had no such specific restrictions.

Article 1.2 of the FIA ​​act commits to promoting human rights protection and “refraining from the expression of discrimination” on a range of issues including ‘political views’.

The 2023 season begins in Bahrain on March 5.


Lewis Hamilton, seven-time Mercedes world champion, and now-retired four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, were among those making political statements at races in recent seasons.

Hamilton, who has been an outspoken campaigner for human rights and diversity, wore a black t-shirt at the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix with the words “Arrested the policeman who killed Breonna Taylor” on the front.

The shirt also featured a photo of the Black paramedic who was shot dead by police in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, with the words “Say her name”.

The FIA ​​set new pre- and post-race rules for drivers’ attire following that incident.

Hamilton has also called for more change in Saudi Arabia, saying this year he was shocked to hear of the mass executions and raced across the Middle East with a rainbow helmet in support. LGBTQ rights.

Vettel used her platform to highlight issues ranging from LGBTQ rights to climate change. This year, he wore a shirt that read ‘Stop Tar Sand Mining’ and ‘Canada’s Climate Crime’ at the Canadian Grand Prix.

In 2021, he wore a rainbow t-shirt in Hungary with the message “same love” to protest against anti-LGBTQ legislation.

An FIA spokesman said the update was “consistent with the political neutrality of sport” as enshrined in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) code of ethics.

The FIA ​​was awarded fully accredited status by the IOC in 2013.

Global Athletes General Manager Rob Koehler said on Twitter that the FIA ​​was “blatantly hypocritical” in telling athletes to stick with sport and stay out of politics.

He mentioned article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights that upholds the right to freedom of opinion and expression and to hold opinions without interference.

“Sporting rules should not be able to restrict that right,” he said.

Global Athletes describes itself as an international athlete-led movement that is leading to positive change in world sport.

Date of first publication: December 21, 2022, 11:27 a.m. IST


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