The FIA’s international sporting code has been updated to require that all Formula 1 drivers receive written permission to express explicit political, religious, or personal statements. Beginning in 2023, any non-neutral stances across the three sectors will be considered a violation of the organization’s principle of neutrality without a clear sign-off.
“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 updated article reads.
Prior to the addition, the FIA’s international sporting code’s only mention of political or religious restrictions appeared under its rules for advertisements that appear on vehicles, and was geared specifically towards competitors. “Competitors taking part in International Competitions are not allowed to affix to their Automobiles advertising that is political or religious in nature or that is prejudicial to the interests of the FIA,” the organization stated.
Violation of the new rule can result in the FIA’s refusal to issue drivers a Super License, which acts as a qualifier for driver’s to compete in the Formula One World Championship. The organization also maintains the right to without or cancel registration requests for those in breach of policy.
In 2020, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was placed under review to determine whether he violated conduct by wearing a shirt that read “Arrest The Cops Who Killed Breonna Taylor” and “Say Her Name” during a Tuscan Grand Prix race.
“The team is fighting against any kind of racism and discrimination and it is Lewis’s personal fight for Black Lives Matter and with all the support we can give him,” Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said at the time. “It’s his call.”
Sebastian Vettel, a four-time world champion who is retiring at the end of the 2022 season, has been vocal about his support of environmental change and LGBTQ+ rights. Last year, the driver – along with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll – was reprimanded for wearing a rainbow shirt reading “Same Love” during the national anthem at a Hungarian Grand Prix race.
They were found to be in violation of an article that punishes “failure to follow the instructions of the relevant officials for the safe and orderly conduct of the Event,” specifically because race director Michael Masi had instructed them to remove the clothing in favor of their race suits before the anthem.
“There are topics that are just bigger than the interests of a sport,” Vettel told the Guardian earlier this year. “Formula One is, to me, about the passion for driving the car, about challenging yourself on the edge. But look at the bigger picture: this is also a big business where you’re looking to turn a lot of money around for certain people. To me, that isn’t really important. It feels like a wasted opportunity if you’re not using the platform that we have.”