Lewis Hamilton insisted he will not be silenced by offseason rules, made public by the FIA in December, that prohibit Formula 1 drivers from speaking out on social causes and political issues, insisting he won’t be muzzled no matter what.
On the occasion of the Mercedes W14 launch at Silverstone on Wednesday, the seven-time F1 champion said will continue to use his global platform to air his wide-ranging interests, which include social justice and race, human rights and protection of the LBGTQ community.
The FIA, F1’s governing body led by President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, updated its International Sporting Code to require prior written permission for drivers to make or display “political, religious and personal statements or comments” during race weekends.
The crackdown on free speech has been condemned by most drivers but Hamilton only weighed in for the first time Wednesday, when Mercedes revealed its 2023 car.
Hamilton said the FIA crackdown “doesn’t surprise me” but he quickly dismissed it when he learned about it over the offseason.
He added: “Nothing will stop me from speaking on the things that I feel that I’m passionate about and issues there are. I feel the sport does have a responsibility, still, always, to speak out as a means to create awareness on important topics, particularly as we are traveling to all these different places, so nothing changes.”
Hamilton: There’s a lot of things we need to tackle
Asked if he was prepared to be penalized by the FIA for breaking the new rule, Hamilton said “it would be silly to say I would want to take extra penalty points” but remained steadfast in that he won’t be silenced.
“I’m still going to be speaking on my end. We still have this platform. There’s a lot of things we need to tackle,” insisted Hamilton.
Most F1 drivers have spoken out against the new rule and most recently by F1 boss Stefano Domenicali, who recently told The Guardian newspaper the series would not be imposing any sort of gag. Domenicali said he expected the FIA to soon clarify its position.
Hamilton is the most vocal driver in F1 and remains the same change agent 17 years into his career as when he became the first Black winner in F1 in 2008. The British racer is now 38 years old, the winningest driver in series history and is tied with Michael Schumacher with a record seven titles.
Hamilton remains the only black driver at the most elite level of motorsports and often speaks out while racing in countries with questionable human rights records, or when an issue arises in which he feels his voice can lend support, which would be banned under the new FIA rule.
Last year he sparred with the FIA over its crackdown of drivers wearing jewelry in the car and mocked the rule by arriving at a news conference wearing three watches, eight rings and multiple necklaces.
What ensued was a protracted back-and-forth over the jewelry ban in which he received an extension on a deadline to remove some piercings; the two sides eventually came to an agreement. (Reporting Jenna Fryer)