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FIA bans drivers from political statements without approval

The FIA has banned all drivers, including at Formula 1 level, from making any non-neutral "political, religious or personal" statements or comments without prior permission.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1, celebrates on the podium with Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG F1

In an updated version of the FIA's International Sporting Code, which governs the running of all sanctioned motorsport competitions from the start of 2023, the governing body outlined a new offence.

A new Article 12.2.1.n states that drivers will be deemed to have committed a breach of the rules if they show "the general making and display of political, religious and personal statements or comments notably in violation of the general principle of neutrality promoted by the FIA under its Statutes, unless previously approved in writing by the FIA for International Competitions, or by the relevant ASN for National Competitions within their jurisdiction."

The change to the code comes a few years after the behaviour of a number of drivers in making personal statements was thrust into the spotlight.

Most famously at the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello, Lewis Hamilton caused a stir when he wore a T-shirt on the podium that stated: "Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor'. On the back, it featured a picture of her face and the words: 'Say her name.'

Taylor was a black medical technician from Louisville, Kentucky, who was shot in her home by police after they attempted to serve a no-knock warrant on her home during a narcotics investigation.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1, and Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG F1, on the grid

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1, and Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG F1, on the grid

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a gun at the police believing them to be intruders, and they returned fire. Taylor was shot eight times and died from her injuries. Walker has recently settled a lawsuit with authorities over the matter.

Hamilton's actions in wearing the T-shirt on the podium prompted a review by the FIA, who subsequently amended the event notes issued from that year's Russian Grand Prix to prevent a repeat.

Drivers were told that they could only wear their driving suits done up to the neck for the podium and post-race interviews, and this became enshrined in F1's Sporting Regulations.

More recently, Sebastian Vettel pushed the boundaries as he wore clothing to increase awareness of environmental and political issues.

At the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix he was reprimanded for having failed to remove a 'Same Love' T-shirt for the pre-race national anthem.

Last year he wore a t-shirt to the Canadian GP stating: "Stop mining tar sands – Canada's climate crime", relating to the oil sands operation in Alberta.

That wording also appeared on his helmet during the opening days of action before he reverted to his traditional colours for the race, prompting suggestions he had come under pressure from either F1 or his team. This was denied at the time.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, and Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT02, on the grid

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, and Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT02, on the grid

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

It is unclear what has prompted the latest clampdown from the FIA, but the governing body has shown itself in the past to have little tolerance for attempts by people to make political statements.

However, this has mostly been related to stunts on the podium.

Back in 2006, Turkish Grand Prix organisers were handed a $5 million fine after then-Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat presented the winner's trophy and was introduced as 'President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus', which was recognised only by Turkey.

The Jerez track in Spain also lost its slot on the F1 calendar after the local mayor made an unscheduled appearance on the podium in 1997.

The FIA has also added to the International Sporting Code that drivers must strictly abide by podium protocols.

It states they could face sanction if there is: "Failure to comply with the instructions of the FIA regarding the appointment and participation of persons during official ceremonies at any Competition counting towards a FIA Championship."

An FIA spokesperson said the update to the ISC was "in alignment with the political neutrality of sport as a universal fundamental ethical principle of the Olympic Movement, enshrined in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Code of Ethics, together with the principle of the universality set out in Article 1.2." 

FIA president movements

In another change to the ISC, the FIA has also ensured that teams are not allowed to employ outgoing senior representatives from the governing body.

From now on, the FIA president and the FIA Deputy President for Sport are not permitted to work for any competitor for a period of half a year after leaving their posts.

ARTICLE 9.17 states: "A Competitor entered in a FIA Championship may not engage or use the services of a former President of the FIA or a former FIA Deputy President for Sport (whether as an employee, independent contractor, consultant, or otherwise) until six months have elapsed since the date that they ceased to hold the post of President or Deputy President for Sport (as applicable), and in any event the aforementioned Competitor may not, without time limit, obtain, benefit from or use confidential information obtained by a former President of the FIA or a former President-Delegate for Sport of the FIA during their mandate."

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