With the 2023 Formula One season under a month away, individuals in the sport have started addressing a controversial rule change made by the FIA in December, and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is the latest to comment.
The governing body added a new article to the International Sporting Code, which states that the following is a breach of the rules: “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.”
Drivers like Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon have spoken out about the restrictive rule, and Domenicali told the Guardian, “F1 will never put a gag on anyone.”
“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 multi-valued.
"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.”
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem said in December that the change was made “in alignment with the political neutrality of sport,” ultimately following the International Olympic Committee’s code of ethics.
Both Verstappen and Albon voiced concerns in separate interviews with Sky Sports News. The Dutchman said at Red Bull’s season launch, “Everyone’s different so people are more outspoken than others. I’m normally not that outspoken—first of all it’s tough as a racing driver to be fully committed to that in terms of going into everything and making sure you know the facts.
“But I don’t think [the rule] is necessary, because in a way you are making sure people are not allowed to speak and I think we should be allowed. It was probably a bit unnecessary.”
Albon, meanwhile, pointed out F1 focused on the We Race As One initiative, which launched in 2020 and focused on the pillars of diversity and inclusion, sustainability and community. The Williams driver felt they were “using our profiles in the right way,” adding, “We were maybe going to some circuits that were slightly controversial, but we were handling it by addressing topics in these places that we felt needed awareness.
“It seems like we’ve slightly gone back on that now. There is most probably a different view between the drivers, FIA—but even also F1. We need to understand and have a talk about it.”