The old saying politics and sport don’t mix has been coming under pressure in recent times. Sports people in general believe they can use their platform from success in their relative sporting disciplines to advance causes beyond their athletic prowess and Formula One is no different.
The FIA has policed strictly over the years any attempts to use the Formula One platform by sponsors and governments alike from making partisan statements.
FIA sanctions Turkish F1 promoters
Most famously at the 2006 Turkish GP, the organisers attempted to claim that Cyprus was in fact a Turkish owned territory.
The organisers of the GP were fined $5m for announcing at the podium presentation the Turkish Cypriot Leander Mehmet Ali Talat as the “President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” as he presented a trophy.
At the time this was the largest fine ever issued in Formula One by the FIA.
In recent times senior Formula One drivers who believe they have nothing to lose given their success within the sport have used their platform as F1 drivers to highlight topics and issues in which they feel personally invested.
Lewis Hamilton Political activism
Lewis Hamilton joined BLM marches following the death of George Floyd at the hands of US police officers. Further repeatedly he wore Black Lives Matter shirts in pre race ceremony’s which was against FIA regulations. Black Lives Matter is a political organisation though it appears Hamilton failed to understand this believing he was just repeating a popular anti-racial slogan.
Lewis also blatantly wore a T-Shirt stating, “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.”
Sebastian Vettel another multiple F1 world champion in recent years championed LGBTQ+ rights and even persuaded his team to display the movement’s rainbow colours on the Aston Martin livery.
Vettel supports environmental action by called a hypocrite
Vettel who has now retired from Formula One upset the Canadian authorities at this years GP by displaying the message “Stop mining tar sands.”
The Athabasca, Peace River and Cold Lake oil sands combined form the world’s third largest known deposit of crude oil. However, extracting oil from the heavy sands is allegedly up to 5 times more energy intensive than pumping it from wells
The environmentalists supported by Vettel claim the deforestation required to perform the mining sites together with emission run off and remaining oil infused sand has created what is called the “world’s most environmentally-destructive oil mining operation”.
Following Vettel’s protest, Alberta’s minister for energy, Sonya Savage, called Sebastian a hypocrite observing his F1 team’s sponsor Saudi Aramco, is the world’s largest polluter.
FIA new regulations for 2023
The FIA have now decided it is time to take action and have issued an updated International Sporting Code set to take effect from 1st January 2023.
“Failure to comply with the instructions of the FIA regarding the appointment and participation of persons during official ceremonies at any Competition counting towards a FIA Championship will now be considered a breach of the regulations.”
Offences under the International Sporting Code are subject to sanctions from €250,000 fines to race bans, although as with the cost cap “minor reach’ no guidelines have been issued.
The new rule (12.2.1.n) states:
“The general making and display of political, religious and personal statements or comments notably in violation of 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.”
FIA claims its statutes are protest enough
The FIA observes it continues to promote its own statutes which oppose the discrimination of anybody based on “race, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin, language, religion, philosophical or political opinion, family situation or disability.”
Lewis Hamilton repeatedly challenged the FIA during the 2022 season were he refused to remove jewellery Formula One’s regulations had deemed illegal for over a decade.
The 7 times world champion escaped sanction for wearing his nose stud during Singapore Grand Prix qualifying after producing a medical exemption letter. Though bizarrely his Mercedes team were fined as they submitted a scrutineering form saying he wasn’t wearing any jewellery.
Hamilton protests would be sanctioned
Under the new code Lewis Hamilton’s political protests and calls for the police to be arrested would be sanctioned.
It is surely no coincidence the FIA have beefed up the sporting code regarding political protests follows a huge controversy during the
Football World Cup held this year in Qatar. There, the sport’s governing body FIFA had threatened players with sporting sanctions even yellow cards and game bans were they to protest against the Qatari strict laws making gay activities illegal.
Formula One races again in 2023 in Qatar and it may be the FIA wish to ensure there is no repeat protests over gay rights as occurred during the Football World Cup.
Yuki loves his gift 🤩🖼️
But who was his Secret Santa? 🎅#F1
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 19, 2022