The FIA, which is the governing body for Formula 1 and other racing series, said in December that it would ban drivers from making political statements, which prompted Lewis Hamilton and others to say: Go ahead and try, but we’ll keep talking. On Friday, the FIA offered further clarity on its rules, which confirm that the FIA doesn’t want to hear anything political on race day.
You can read the full new regulation on FIA’s website here, but the most pertinent parts are:
When does Article 12.2.1.n apply?
Participants are not permitted to make political, religious and/or personal statements in violation of the general principle of neutrality during:
- FIA press conferences (except in response to direct questions from accredited journalists);
- activities on the track (Course) area or equivalent (e.g., during the Drivers Parade and the national anthem); or
- pre-race / post-race procedures or equivalent (e.g., the podium ceremony, in the cool down room, or at the start- and end-of-season group photos).
What constitutes “political”, “religious” or “personal”?
It is the responsibility of the Stewards to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a statement or comment – whether in the form of an image, symbol, gesture, words, or actions – is in breach of Article 12.2.1.n of the ISC. To aid the Stewards in making such determinations, the FIA has prepared a nonexhaustive list of potential scenariosthat could be prohibited under Article 12.2.1.n. However, this list is intended to be illustrative only, and Stewards will carefully assess the specific circumstances of each potential contravention when determining whether a breach of the rules has occurred.
The FIA also tried to clarify what it considers “political,” “religious,” and “personal.”
It is likely that a participant has breached the ISC under Article 12.2.1.n if they make any unapproved statements or comments – whether in the form of an image, symbol, gesture, words, or actions – related to the following:
- Any politically-associated or politically-sensitive person(s) living or dead (unless part of the official competition name).
- Any local, regional, national, or international political party/ organisation/group.
- Any local, regional, or national government or any of its departments, offices or functions.
- Any function or branch of government (e.g., any statement or comment regarding the police or military).
- Any reference (whether express or implied) to separatist movements (e.g., the display of a flag or symbol associated with an independence movement).
- Any organisation whose aims or actions: (i) conflict with the FIA’s values or Diversity and Inclusion mission; and/or (ii) include hostility, prejudice, or unlawful discrimination on the grounds set out in Article 1.2 of the FIA Statutes.
- Any reference to any totalitarian regime that justified mass killing (e.g., pro-Nazi chants).
- Any specific political act/ event.
- Any military conflict or political dispute between nations, regions, religions, or communities.
- Any specific ethnic or indigenous communities, or perceived discrimination by one community against another.
- A religion, spiritual practice, or related significant figure, except as indicated below.
-Anything critical of or hostile to others’ religious or spiritual beliefs.
- Private, non-proselytising religious gestures, such as pointing to the sky or crossing oneself, shall not be considered prohibited religious statements.
- Article 12.2.1.n will not be used to sanction individuals who display religious symbols or wear prescribed religious clothing/ornaments, unless they include prohibited statements or comments of the kind mentioned above.
- Any circumstance personal to the participant. Competitors must not use events as a platform to share personal statements of any kind in violation of the general principle of neutrality.
The FIA also said that drivers are free to express their own views “outside the scope of the International Competition,” which is nice of them.
Can participants express their own views?
Yes. 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, for example:
- through their social media; or
- during interviews with accredited media (such as any TV or print media interviews,
- during the FIA press conference, only in response to direct questions from accredited journalists.
According to ESPN, possible penalties for violating the rule range from warnings to fines to outright exclusion from a race, though it is now the duty of Formula 1 reporters to ask every driver at every FIA press conference if they have anything political, religious, or personal to share. That’s just how the FIA wants it.