Mohammed Ben Sulayem defended the FIA’s decision to clamp down on Formula 1 drivers making political statements insisting they should stick to what the do best – driving.
The FIA, back in December 2022, revised the International Sporting Code (ISC) adding a new article preventing drivers from making an political statements at grands prix without acquiring prior approval from the governing body.
Many F1 drivers, most famously Lewis Hamilton, and the retired Sebastian Vettel have been recently promoting causes they feel strongly about covering areas related to the environment and global climate crisis, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ rights, and human rights issues in some countries the sports visits.
The decision by the FIA has caused controversy and speaking to the media at the Dakar Rally, Ben Sulayem was asked about the topic.
“I am a big believer in the sport,” he said, quoted by Motorsport.com. “We are concerned with building bridges. You can use sport for peace reasons and all of this.
“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,” he warned.
As for drivers, the Emirati urged them to try to promote their causes elsewhere and away from the sport; he commented: “What does the driver do best? Driving.
There are other platforms for drivers to express what they want
“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,” he explained.
Going further, Ben Sulayem said: “I have my own personal things, OK, but it doesn’t mean I will use the FIA to do it. The FIA should be neutral, I believe, and we need the superstars in to make the sport. And they do such a great job when it comes to the competition that all of us enjoy.”
Clarifying what the rules mentioned about drivers taking permission before making any statements, the FIA president said it was up for the “stewards to decide”, and said: “It’s always clarity, there is the process.
“If there is anything, you take the permission. 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.
“Some of the penalties, you can never put clarity and like if someone is pushing when it comes to the limits in the track, track limits, that’s very hard. That needs a steward to check, look at it again.
“But the stewards have the full power, not the FIA President,” Ben Sulayem maintained.