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Domenicali: F1 doesn’t want to “gag” its drivers

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali says that the sport will “never put a gag on anyone” in the light of the controversial FIA clampdown on drivers speaking out.

Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Formula 1

He also stressed that he expects the FIA to clarify exactly what the new ruling means.

The FIA made a change to the international sporting code for 2023 banning comments on “political, religious or personal” issues without obtaining prior permission from the governing body.

Due to the winter break few drivers have responded in public to the news, although as media activities have ramped up in recent days several have expressed their dissatisfaction with the situation, including Alex Albon

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Domenicali appeared to distance himself from the FIA decision, insisting that the F1 organisation itself took a more liberal view.

“F1 will never put a gag on anyone,” said the Italian. “Everyone wants to talk so to have the platform to say what they want in the right way the better it is. We have a huge opportunity because of the position of our sport which is more and more global, multicultural and multivalued.

“We are talking about 20 drivers, 10 teams and many sponsors, they have different ideas, different views. I cannot say one is right, one is wrong, but it is right, if needed, to give them a platform to discuss their opinions in an open way.

“We will not change that approach as a sport. That should be the line of our sport, to give everyone the chance to speak in the right way, not with aggressive tones or to offend, but with respect.”

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C42, Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C42, Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42

Photo by: Alfa Romeo

Domenicali said he has been in regular touch with the drivers on the subject.

“I had a discussion with the drivers about this last year,” he said. “About how F1 could be a platform, to have a spotlight on certain things we believe are right to talk about. F1 should help the drivers if they want to discuss certain subjects.

“It is important to have a very constructive dialogue. If this is not happening it can create either confusion or problems where there need not be problems.

“We keep monitoring the situation. We keep the drivers informed, we meet with the GPDA to discuss it. How we can allow the drivers to be open as human beings in our sport.

“Athletes can be very emotional and passionate about some things, and they need to discuss that constructively with people they trust.”

Domenicali stressed that he expects the FIA to offer a more detailed explanation of what the new ruling entails, and thus what it really means for the drivers.

“We are talking about a regulation and the regulator is the FIA,” he said. “I believe the FIA will clarify what has been stated, in terms of respecting certain places where you cannot do it.

“I am sure the FIA will share the same view as F1 but they are part of an Olympic federation, so there are protocols to which they have to abide.”

Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas made it clear that he disagrees with the new ruling from the FIA.

“It's my honest, honest feeling and opinion that I don't feel it's right,” said the Alfa Romeo driver when asked by Motorsport.com about his thoughts on the ban.

“Or I don't think it's needed to actually put it in the regulations that you are not allowed to basically say or support what you want.

“But then if you put yourself in their shoes, we go to different countries, someone would maybe speak or raise their voice about certain issues, and could create problems, whether it's for F1 or the promoter, these kinds of things.

“So that side now I kind of get. I just don't think it's that fair for us. Because I think in this world, everyone should have their own say on things and own opinions. That's how I feel.”

Asked if the subject had been discussed via the GPDA WhatsApp group, he said: "It's classified information! Actually, it's been pretty quiet in the chat. But yeah, it was mentioned."

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