Examples have been given of when drivers can make “political, religious and personal statements”, but there are still vagueness in the rule.
The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Formula 1’s governing body, has now outlined the restrictions in its latest ruling regarding “political, religious and personal statements or comments.”
The governing body added a new article to the International Sporting Code late last year, which says the following is a breach of the rules: “Generally making and displaying political, religious and personal statements or comments, particularly contrary to the general principle of neutrality promoted by the FIA under its statutes, unless previously approved in writing by the FIA for international competitions, or by the relevant ASN for national competitions within their jurisdiction.”
Several drivers have been critical of the move in recent weeks. McLaren’s Lando Norris compared it to how children are treated at school, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton remained adamant he still wants to speak out. He told Sky Sports News the rule “doesn’t surprise me. But nothing will stop me from talking about the things I feel passionate about and problems that exist.”
It was unclear at first what would be categorized as a breach of the new rule, but on Friday the FIA clarified the parameters – to an extent. Drivers can make comments “in their own space, and outside the framework of the international competition.” However, the FIA highlighted where these statements would not be allowed without prior approval.
- “FIA press conferences (except in response to direct questions from accredited journalists);
- “activities on the track (course) or equivalent (eg during the Drivers Parade and the National Anthem); or
- “pre-race / post-race procedures or similar (e.g. the podium ceremony, in the cooling room or at the start and end of the season group photos).”
It is clear that what constitutes a “political, religious and personal” remark will be decided on a case-by-case basis. But some examples were given, such as how signing a cross on himself before a race like Pierre Gasly will not be a violation. What is considered “personal” remains unclear with Friday’s document stating: “Any circumstance personal to the participant. Competitors must not use events as a platform to share personal statements of any kind contrary to the general principle of neutrality.”
To obtain permission for a statement outside the parameters, drivers must submit a written request four weeks in advance. If drivers break the rule, there is reportedly a wide range of penalties the stewards can consider, including warnings, fines or sporting penalties.