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Formula 1 Drivers Banned from Making Political Statements

Formula One drivers will need prior written permission from the sport’s governing body to make any non-neutral political statements from next season following an update of the International Sporting Code. The FIA added the new clause to its International Sporting Code, and it can be seen highlighted on the governing body’s website.

This new clause comes in response to driver Lewis Hamilton wearing a shirt in tribute to Breonna Taylor in 2020. The 2023 version of the code, which applies to all series sanctioned by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), states that drivers will need prior written permission to wear any clothing with political, religious, or personal statements or comments. Drivers who make such statements will now be in breach of the rules, as the FIA wants to abide by its general principle of neutrality. 

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is just one of the drivers who made political statements in recent seasons. The Mercedes driver is an outspoken campaigner for human rights and diversity, and he was seen wearing a black T-shirt at the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix, reading the words “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” on the front. The shirt also had a photograph of the Black medical worker, who was killed in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment by police officers who carried out a nighttime “no-knock” warrant to storm her home while she was sleeping with her boyfriend.

Hamilton also called for more change in Saudi Arabia, stating that he was shocked to hear of mass executions, and he has also raced in the Middle East with a rainbow helmet in support of LGBTQ+ rights.

Wishing to put an end to these symbolic acts of protest, the FIA set out this new pre and post-race rules for driver clothing after that Grand Prix.

ARTICLE 9.17 states: “A Competitor entered in a FIFA 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.”

Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel was also among the racers that used his platform to highlight issues from climate change, anti-war statements, and LGBTQ+ rights. This year he wore a shirt reading “Stop Mining Tar Sands,” relating to the oil sands operation in Alberta. Last year, he wore a rainbow pattern T-shirt in Hungary with the message “same love” to protest anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. He was reprimanded for not removing this T-shirt for the pre-race national anthem.

Drivers are now told to only wear their driving suits done up to the neck for the podium and post-race interviews, a requirement enshrined in F1’s Sporting Regulations. An FIA spokesman said the update was “in alignment with the political neutrality of sport” as enshrined in the International Olympic Committee code of ethics.

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