The FIA today clarified that Formula 1 drivers can make political and personal statements “in their own space” this season but face sanctions if they do so during podium ceremonies and anthems.
What drivers can say and do has been a major talking point since the International Sporting Code last December was updated by the FIA, F1’s governing body, requiring prior written permission to make or display “political, religious and personal statements or comments”.
Britain’s seven-times F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who has used his platform to highlight racial injustice and challenge human rights abuses, said this week nothing would stop him from speaking out.
McLaren’s Lando Norris suggested the FIA was treating drivers like schoolchildren.
The FIA’s “Guidance on the Principle of Neutrality”, published on its website and sent to the 10 F1 teams on Friday, attempted to set out in practical terms what was allowed.
“Participants can express their views on any political, religious or personal matter before, during and after the international competition, in their own space, and outside the scope of the international competition,” it said.
This could be via social media, during media interviews and during the FIA news conference in response to direct questions from accredited journalists.
F1 drivers have not been shy to highlight matters close to their hearts
The statement added: “On an exceptional and case-by-case basis, the FIA may authorise a participant to make a statement at an international competition that would otherwise be prohibited.
“When expressing their views, participants are expected to respect applicable laws, the FIA’s values, and all other participants.”
The FIA said drivers could not make political, religious and/or personal statements during the pre-race parade, anthem and post-race procedures, as both Hamilton and now retired Sebastian Vettel have done in the past.
It would be up to the FIA appointed stewards to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether a breach had been committed and a list of potential scenarios had been prepared to help them.
Examples included unapproved statements or comments relating to “any military conflict or political dispute between nations, regions, religions, or communities”.
F1 drivers would be allowed to display religious symbols and ornaments.
An FIA spokesman said the body wanted to “ensure neutrality during key moments across all motor sport competitions, such as podiums, national anthems and official activities ‘on the field of play’. It does not impose any additional restrictions on individuals expressing their views outside of these times.”