FIA clarifies rules on freedom of speech in F1 in a reaction to criticism led mostly by Lewis Hamilton. From the 2023 Formula 1 season onwards, political, religious or personal statements by Formula One drivers will be prohibited in certain specific cases. The FIA has finally clarified what will and will not be allowed.
The FIA has finally clarified its new rule on political, religious or personal statements during an F1 Grand Prix weekend.
In December, the FIA confirmed in the latest version of the International Sporting Code that unapproved political, religious and personal statements will be banned in F1 from the 2023 season, despite the fact that some drivers – in particular Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – have been very active in recent years in raising awareness of certain societal issues.
Many drivers including Hamilton, have criticised the FIA’s injunction, while others have said they want clarification from the governing body before making assumptions.
On Friday, the FIA finally decided to clarify the situation and indicated what drivers will and will not be allowed to do during a grand prix weekend this year.
The rules clarified
“Participants may express their opinions on any political, religious or personal matter before, during and after international competition in their own space and outside the framework of international competition,” the FIA said.
“Exceptionally and on a case-by-case basis, the FIA may allow a participant to make a statement during an international competition that would otherwise be prohibited.”
“When expressing their opinions, participants are required to respect applicable laws, the values of the FIA and all other participants.”
Neutrality is key
In imposing these rules, the FIA’s main aim is to ensure neutrality at high-profile moments such as the podium and the pre-race grid when the host country’s national anthem is played.
An FIA spokesman said: “We want to ensure neutrality at key moments in all motor sport competitions, such as podiums, national anthems and official activities on the field of play (the venue).
“No additional restrictions will be imposed on people expressing their opinions outside of these periods.”
In practical terms, therefore, drivers will be able to freely express their opinions via their social networks, in interviews with accredited media, at one of the FIA press conferences during the weekend but only if one of the accredited journalists asks a direct question on a specific topic.
Exclusion from a Grand Prix on the cards
Participants may request FIA approval to make a declaration, but must submit a written request at least four weeks before the event concerned. Late applications will be considered in exceptional circumstances.
Throughout the season, the Stewards will determine whether a statement or comment by a driver is in breach of the rules. These violations may take the form of an image, a symbol, a gesture, words or actions (such as wearing a T-shirt). However, it is not yet known whether drivers’ helmets are affected by the ban.
If a driver does not comply with the rules, the stewards may impose penalties. These penalties cover all forms of punishment that can be applied to drivers throughout a race weekend, ranging from minor sanctions such as a warning or reprimand to extreme penalties such as expulsion.
The 2023 F1 World Championship begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on 5 March. The 2023 campaign consists of 23 Grands Prix.