TJ13 reported recently that Mohammed Ben Sulayem has overseen a revision to the FIA’s International Sporting Code (ISC) to strengthen the ban on drivers using Formula One as their own political platform. In recent years a few of the senior members on the grid have discovered a conscience over political and environmental matters and used their strength of position as world champions to champion causes close to their hearts.
Quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel in recent years has adopted championed LGBTQ+ rights even persuading his team to display the movement’s rainbow colours on the Aston Martin livery.
Sebastian Vettel upsets Canadian authorities
Vettel, who is now retired, irked the Canadian authorities during the 2022 event in Montreal 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”.
Sebastian Vettel’s backing of the local environmentalists somewhat backfired as Alberta’s minister for energy, Sonya Savage, called the German out for being a hypocrite observing his F1 team’s sponsor Saudi Aramco, is the world’s largest polluter.
New Sporting Code changes
The revised FIA ISC regulation 12.2.1.n now 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.”
Lewis Hamilton too would be sanctioned under the new regulation for attending a podium ceremony wearing a T-Shirt stating, “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.”
The President of the FIA, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, now explains the reason behind the new clampdown on drivers making political statements. He told reporters at the Dakar rally, “We are concerned with building bridges. You can use sport for peace reasons.”
F1 drivers no longer allowed ‘personal agendas’
“But one thing we don’t want is to have the FIA as a platform for private personal agenda.”
“We will divert from the sport. What does the driver do best? Driving. They are so good at it, and they make the business, they make the show, they are the stars. Nobody is stopping them.”
“There are other platforms to express what they want. Everybody has this and they are most welcome to go through the process of the FIA, to go through that.”
“I have my own personal things, okay, but it doesn’t mean I will use the FIA to do it,” Ben Sulayem added.
FIA can approve ‘political statements’
Political statements are not banned completely, “If there is anything, you take [get] the permission,” said Ben Sulayem. “If not, if they make any other mistake, it’s like speeding in the pit lane. If you do it, it’s very clear what you get.”
Yet the penalties are not so clear and as with those attached to a ‘minor overspend’ in the budget cap financial regulations the sanctions are indeed diverse.
“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.”
F1 race bans enforceable
Yet offences committed under the International Sporting Code are subject to sanctions from €250,000 fines all the way up to race bans.
The FIA is justified in demanding drivers represent the values of the FIA and Formula One and should a driver believe his conscience forces him to protest, then he should suffer the consequences.
Of course the FIA has targeted F1 to be net zero by 2030, but by taking the position of the environmental activists in Canada he merely embarrassed F1 and the FIA with the race promoters who pay everyone’s wages.
“Let he who is without in, cast the first stone”
— Crash F1 (@CRASH_NET_F1) January 11, 2023