Valtteri Bottas exclusive interview for RaceFans, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2022

FIA’s ban on drivers’ political statement shows “they want to control us” – Bottas

2023 F1 season

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Valtteri Bottas has expressed concern over the FIA’s new rules restricting drivers’ political expressions.

As RaceFans revealed last month, a revision to the FIA International Sporting Code for the 2023 F1 season introduced a ban on drivers making any political gestures without the prior approval of the sport’s governing body.

The revision to the ISC forbids “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.”

Bottas, who competed in the Race of Champions in Sweden last weekend, defended political gestures made by drivers such as Sebastian Vettel in recent years.

“Personally, I don’t like politics,” he told Expressen. “I like to do what I love, which is racing, but politics is at the same time part of today’s society. I think Formula 1 has done a good job of paying attention to some of these kinds of issues and many drivers have raised their voices, including Sebastian.”

“I do not understand why they want to control us,” he added. “I think we should have the right to talk about what we want. That is how I see it, but we will see what happens.”

The FIA justified the clampdown as being in line with the International Olympics Committee’s Code of Ethics. McLaren team principal Zak Brown defended the change, saying “it is within Formula 1 and the FIA’s right to say here’s the code of conduct we expect for you to follow during a grand prix weekend.”

However rights groups have criticised the change. One told FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem in a letter last week the new restriction on drivers’ expressions was “seriously disturbing”.

Bottas’ former team principal Toto Wolff believes a dialogue between the governing body and the drivers is needed. “Every time I know when Mohammed’s spoken to Lewis and the other way around, it’s ended up in a positive conversation,” he said earlier this month. “So I have no doubt that when once people sit [at] the table together that things will not appear as harsh when they are being written down in the off-season.”

Nico Hulkenberg, who will return to the F1 grid this year, said the new rule “will not affect or impair that much” for him.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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77 comments on “FIA’s ban on drivers’ political statement shows “they want to control us” – Bottas”

  1. Sergey Martyn
    30th January 2023, 8:54

    I believe the Olympic Movement is the highest possible form of all sports ranking MUCH higher than FIA and there are excerpts from their Code of Ethics:

    All the entities and persons must refrain from approaching any constituent of the
    Olympic Movement or any third-party authority with the aim to obtain financial, political
    or any other support.

    Sports organisations should preserve their autonomy and political neutrality in
    their operations and governance, and should reject any form of political, religious
    or economic pressures.

    And now please remind me who is Bottas to question such issues?

    1. There are statues of the dude’s from ’68 Olympics with good reason.

    2. He is an F1 driver. Who are you? Olympics are a more nationalalist climate and most of the sports men and women are amateurs. F1 is paid professionals on an international stage not as patriotic based.

    3. ollie studio45
      30th January 2023, 19:37

      So according to the text quoted above the IOC doesn’t seem to actually prohibit free speech as the FIA seems to be doing.

      Maybe one is inspired by the principle of neutrality while the other is more in tune with the values of a certain Mr Bernie Ecclestone.

      1. ollie studio45
        30th January 2023, 19:44

        According to the article likned below the position of the IOC is extremely unclear:

        “Two years ago, IOC member Dick Pound stated that “athletes remain free to express their opinions in press conferences, in media interviews and on social media.” But the Athletes Declaration is clear — all Olympians must “comply with applicable national laws.””

        “This includes forgoing their right to freedom of speech and expression while in China because of the regime’s vague law against “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.””

      2. Indeed ollie studio45

        Also, I can’t help but note that

        … the aim to obtain financial, political
        or any other support.

        has in the past frequently been a bit that proved hard for officials to maintain for the Olympic Committee, so I’m not sure that claiming they have a higher moral standing than Bottas, who hasn’t had anything shady connected to him, and from all I can see is a decent human and talented driver, is all that strong a claim either.

        Moreover, the quoted statement talks about refraining from any involved bowing to outside pressures. Which isn’t what Bottas is talking about at all, he’s talking about standing for what he and his colleagues believe in, without pressure from the FIA or others (sponsors, for example) to stop that. That’s quite close to the opposite it would seem.

    4. IOC is as corrupt as it gets. FIA controls now who wins the championship so why not shutting these guys up and controlling them more?

    5. The Olympic movement is a small organisation. IOC is repeatedly overestimating itself. Look at their ridiculous claim into esports.

  2. Electroball76
    30th January 2023, 9:15

    Censorship, Breakfast of champions!

  3. Aren’t the driver’s already expected by their teams and sponsors to talk walk eat play and exist exactly as directed?

    1. I don’t thing so. Most things the drivers say that where slightly news worthy was a headache for the teams.

    2. Probably, but you get more control over that the better you are. Remember Senna? He could do absolutely anything he wanted to and get away with it.

  4. I have absolutely no interest in listening to the asinine, oft misinformed opinions of any sportsman. You are paid to drive so drive.

    1. It is not about you. It is about the drivers’ freedom to speak up.

      You are free to ignore what drivers are saying, and drivers are free to say what is on their mind. It’s a win-win.

      FIA wants to protect its money. Comparison to the Olympics Committee’s Code of Ethics is smoke and mirrors.

      1. drivers are free to say what is on their mind

        Everyone in F1 has to follow the local laws at all times, including the drivers.

        The FIA’s business is to be a common partner for all governments for everything related to cars, driving, roads, etc. If the FIA starts lecturing governments on other issues, they risk losing their hard won influence.

        Many people at the FIA and IOC will have opinions on where their events take place, but they’re also there to (get paid and) organize sporting events – so they’ll follow the line of, say, the UN. Thus the IOC will not allow people from Taiwan to participate as China (“China” is represented by the People’s Republic at the UN and not the Republic of China), and the FIA will not allow the Turkish Grand Prix to feature representatives from so-called Northern Cyprus; hence the fine when that happened.

        If the drivers don’t want to race in certain places, that’s fine. That’s how Vettel effectively forced F1’s hand, by announcing he’d not participate in the Russian Grand Prix.

    2. steve naive is correct…

  5. ” or any third-party authority with the aim to obtain financial, political
    or any other support.”
    Wouldn’t that language, taken to the letter, preclude any government (entity) to approach the FIA with “financial incentives” in order to organize a race in its country?
    ” and should reject any form of political, religious
    or economic pressures.”
    Am I allowed to laugh at the idea of F1 rejecting “Economic pressure”? Ha ha ha !
    Is this a joke?

    1. And by the way Bottas is a driver who just happens to be a human who even if he doesn’t like to make public use of his rights ( speech and others from the human right declaration) is nevertheless concerned by others trying to muzzle him.
      That makes him, in my books, just as “important” as the guy who wrote these nonsensical Olympic rules!

    2. – The FIA is not a third-party – they are the first one. And the primary financial gainers are FOM.
      – There’s no economic pressure on F1 that isn’t self-imposed. Everyone is there for profit.

      And Bottas is indeed a human who has the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else who voluntarily competes under the FIA’s ISC.
      Should he (or anyone else) wish to share an opinion on any subject whatsoever, they can. No muzzling or constriction of freedoms at all.

      1. The FIA is the party that is supposed to reject the financial, political, religious pressure of external entities like governments, as per Sergey’s comparison to the Olympic code of ethics.
        Drivers, as you have said many times, indeed entered the competition voluntarily under the FIA ISC witch contract at the time of their signing didn’t include restrictions on speech. This is this sudden unilateral change that, I believe, Valtery is referring to as “control”
        It also strike me as a strange coincidence that this new rule come at a time where more and more races are happening in rich authoritarian regime’s countries and under a Saudi FIA president. Not saying there was any pressure… caugh caugh. :)

        1. The FIA is the party that is supposed to reject the financial, political, religious pressure of external entities like governments,

          They are rejecting such pressures. That’s the point.
          That doesn’t exclude them from doing business, though. With such an enormous range of people (and cultures) worldwide, no less.

          Drivers… indeed entered the competition voluntarily under the FIA ISC witch contract at the time of their signing didn’t include restrictions on speech.

          It doesn’t now, and the timing is irrelevant anyway. While competitors hold and make use of their FIA sporting licence/s they are bound to the current version of the ISC – whatever it says in it.
          If they don’t agree to participate under the current version, they are encouraged to relinquish their licence/s – any breaches will be punishable by the FIA while they are using it.
          This change is no more controlling than if Bottas had tried to publicly endorse (say) Ferrari or Honda products or brands while he was employed by Mercedes (without their prior approval). All F1 drivers represent the FIA brands while they are on official duty – but remain free to speak their mind while off-duty and no longer publicly representing said brands.

          There may or may not have been pressure – but is it political, financial or religious?
          A sensible person would say it is actually the removal of those pressures that resulted in this update to the wording.
          Keeping in mind that the ISC did equally forbid any displays of misconduct and misrepresentation all along….

        2. The drivers have to renew their licence each year as far as I remember, so the agreement is renewed each calendar year.

          BSM isn’t Saudi either…

  6. RaceFans seems to have gained alot of traction with these politically charged articles… to be pumping out so many of them, and in such quick succession.

    Drivers and Team members are FAR from free to speak their minds in current F1, no matter the topic, they are nothing but mouth pieces for their Corporate owners and and the Corporate Political/Social agendas ESG, DEI etc.

    Keep F1 focused on F1, let sports be sports, and leave all that divisive trash out of it.

    Valtteri Bottas has a plethora of other platforms available to him, where he can tell the world how awesome his girlfriend is, and how she is under paid compared to male pro-cyclists, and the world will see how Valtteri is a good boy.
    Is he not Tiffany, yes he is?

    The man that earned a fraction of what his team mate did, while performing in the exact same sport, conditions, and having the exact same “hardware”, can keep denying reality and not see the forest from the trees.
    Everyone would be better for it if he goes and does it outside of the F1 broadcast.

    Athletes are paid based on performance first, with some popularity and presentability, sprinkled on top.

    Lance “Babby-Stroll” Stroll is exempted from this, of course.

    1. Agree with all of that, except for this bit:

      Athletes are paid based on performance first, with some popularity and presentability, sprinkled on top.

      Many athletes (not just in motorsport) make more money from personal endorsements and sponsorships than they do from their direct employment to a team (and therefore, their performance).
      Celebrity worshipping is a thing, and corporate marketing departments know it.

      Stroll isn’t really excepted from that. He has both a paid employment contract (somewhat) based on his performance, and income from sponsors/endorsements. Just like all the other drivers in F1.

      1. <3 …and Papa-Stroll buying him his very own F1 team for his Sweet 16th birthday! <3

        I am aware of how sponsorships work, and that it is not fully based on performance, but there is no doubt that a driver that is consistently making headlines with his competitive achievements, will receive more lucrative offers from the same sponsors than a B-ottas-tier driver would receive.

        Celebrity worship is a thing, and women's sports is absolutely living in denial by refusing to lean into the obvious and make their sports "sexier". I know it's not a very 2023-thing to say, but nobody really cares for women's sports.

        Women certainly don't, they care less for it than men, eg. more men can name Ronda Rousey than women.

        I only went on this tangent because Valtteri Bottas is the absolute wrong person to keep spreading this pay-inequality-in-sports misinformation, and he's been doing it ever since he traded girlfriends on-the-fly.
        Valtteri Bottas is the perfect example of "Competence gets Compensated".

        Let him play his "Happy Wife, Happy Life"-violin elsewhere, where we're not forced to endure it.

        1. Nobody is forcing you.

          1. Yes we are forced, there is only one global feed for F1.

            Instead of these political agendas being pushed, I would much rather we have in depth analysis of race tactics, new technologies, or even driver profiles of current and up-and-coming junior drivers on their way to the grid.

            Instead we get mandated kneeling during national anthems, drivers wearing t-shirts to the podium with people’s faces on them despite not having all the facts of the actual events, and We Race as One.

            Utter trash all of it… and if fans do not push back, I suspect it is a shockingly short timespan that the sport would become un-recognisable, just ask the women’s swimming team.

          2. Yes we are forced, there is only one global feed for F1.

            I don’t like the extra bits and pieces either – so I generally don’t watch the parts that the drivers have been exploiting. I stopped watching most of the pre-race stuff when the kneeling and BLM nonsense started and I haven’t seen a podium for years.
            Unfortunately, the ‘fans’ pushing back are instantly labelled and rejected by those who want that stuff and think that it actually does some good.

            Spend a few hours sifting through this website and all these types of articles.
            I have no idea how many times I’ve been labelled something derogatory for saying that extra stuff doesn’t belong on an F1 broadcast.

    2. I hope your tirade gets removed by racefans. You must be new here

      1. Removed? What for? Or are you simply using woke tactics of disapproval.

        Why not make a case? And if you can’t, why post?

      2. Indeed, I just found this website.

        I am a long time fan of F1, been watching since 2019, I consider myself a fanatic of sorts.

        Part of me really hopes F1, FIA, whatever, caves in and bends the knee.

        I really want to see what happens when “Everything is Racist, and everything is Sexist. Martin Brundle’s pre-race gridwalk is nothing but a BDSM-Drag-Gay-Pride extravaganza, and Shmee the Snowflace, a newcomer, could not attend today’s race because xe tested too low on gender bending hormones in their daily drug test.”

        And ofcourse, car weight limits are also discriminatory, more needs to be done to consider the needs of drivers with bigger bodies. HAES!”

        1. I am a long time fan of F1, been watching since 2019,

          You think that’s a long time????
          I guess it feels like it with F1…

          1. Such is the life of a Ferrari fan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          2. Ahah, yes, it can feel a long time for some other stuff, but for f1 I’d say at least 20 years would be a long-time fan, back when ferrari, mclaren and williams used to fight for the title!

        2. 2019? That makes you a longtime fan? 🤪

          As for the other stuff you wrote. 😢

      3. I see how it is.

        Censorship is ok, as long as it’s the “wrong” opinions that get censored.

        I would never have guessed.

    3. Athletes are also paid to be shoved a microphone under their nose and answer questions. I believe Valtery answered a question asked by some media person, in private settings, on his own time, outside of a track or any F1 related facility, in off season time, therefore well within the plethora of other platforms you referred to. If the quote being reported on this site is enough to trigger that hate tangent of yours, maybe you should ease off the internet for a while, take a breather. This does not benefit you nor us.

      1. Indeed he was, as is his right to do.

        But he was explicitly complaining about the fact that he can not do it in F1, or FIA related events. I have no problem with him saying what he said, just the fact that he wants to shove his own personal, privileged, opinions down our throats when we’re trying to relax on the weekends.

        I am not one to deny climate change, and I agree with the need to do everything we can as a species to prevent our own demise.

        However, every time Vettel’s PR-team made a big deal of him taking out the trash, I wish I could look him in the face and tell him to shut his rich priviliged mouth, and just drive the damn car. I am too busy trying to pay my daily bills to be able to focus on some new technique a multi millionare has come up with, to try and seem better than most.

        If Vettel really wanted to save the planet, he could open a business, run it at a loss if need be. He could actually fight his windmills and make actual progress in his personal strife, whatever it may be.

      2. I should also add:
        If the same reporter shoves the same mic under Bottas’ nose and asks the same question in a FIA event, I would expect his answer to be something along the lines of:
        This is not the place for these international socio-political debates. We’re here to race, receive trophies and points, and look good while doing it.

    4. Keep F1 focused on F1, let sports be sports, and leave all that divisive trash out of it.

      It’s love that to be the case. However, F1 is full of political content. A few comments from drivers about world events or helmet designs encouraging people to be nice to each other pale into insignificance when compared to everything else.

  7. FIA: F1 drivers are forbidden to drink alcohol on the job.
    Drivers: ZOMG, OMG, we’re not allowed to drink a beer at home! They want to control what we have for supper and how we live our lives!! Terrorists!!

    I’m really tired of how dumb those F1 drivers are.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      30th January 2023, 16:10

      I’m really tired of how dumb these comments are…

      1. Yes, for example from people like you that defend this “woe is me” garbage.

      2. Me too.

    2. F1 drivers are forbidden to drink alcohol on the job.

      Don’t drink and drive – you spill way too much.

  8. If to watch F1 I have to put up with a barrage of verbal and visual propaganda from drivers or teams supporting their favourite hobby horse then I’ll stop watching.

    There is an epidemic of the famous thinking they can “guide” us because they are famous not because they have demonstrable knowledge or insight, and a parallel social disease of companies who think it more important to demonstrate their woke credentials than providing a quality product which gives consumers value for money.

    1. Are you Ron DeSantis? Or one of his speech writers? Jezzz man take it easy. The only propaganda I see in F1 is coming from the top right now. Also all that advertising on cars, clothing, trucks, equipment etc, couldn’t that be considered as some form of propaganda? As for a company that accept being in the 21st century, being woke, is some kind of a disease, that comes across strangely like the propaganda language of my authoritarian governor. Just saying…

      1. cranky much?

      2. Authoritarian governor, what crap that is. Your “authoritarian” governor has propelled Florida into the most free state in the nation according to the Cato Institute and is standing up for the rights of Floridians in ways no leftist governor ever would. Wanna see authoritarianism? Go to Illinois, California, New York, Oregon, Minnesota, Washington State, etc.

  9. Woke = good. The fias position is opposite of woke. Also only the alt right use the duspara word “woke”, so we all know your angle.

    1. *disparaging

      1. This comment was for @Witan

    2. Woke = left wing political tactics. Fact.

      It is ok as long as you agree, else you are excommunicated from society

      1. Woke means “awake to social injustices” (ie aware of them). The alternative is that you are “asleep” to/unaware of them, or worse, willfully ignorant or in denial of them. I know which I’d rather be…

  10. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    30th January 2023, 14:13

    Bottas is right – the weird question is why the FIA is trying to control them and how they passed this regulation without consulting with the drivers.

    Lewis doesn’t have to have a conversation with the president of the FIA to enlighten him. If so, he should not be the president of the FIA. Okay, we put someone in charge and he’s vehemently opposed against free speech and democracy, perhaps instead of changing the regulation, wouldn’t it be not be simpler to change leadership?

    When a neutral driver like Bottas says that, it clearly echoes the opinion of all drivers…

    You have to treat the problem, not the symptoms right?

    1. the weird question is why the FIA is trying to control them and how they passed this regulation without consulting with the drivers.

      They aren’t controlling anyone, and they didn’t consult the drivers because they don’t need to.

      Okay, we put someone in charge and he’s vehemently opposed against free speech and democracy

      He’s not. Quite the opposite, actually.
      Wait a second…. “Opposed against” is a double negative – so you were correct!

      You have to treat the problem, not the symptoms right?

      What exactly, in your opinion, is the problem and what is the symptom?
      Free speech should apply to everyone, shouldn’t it? Not just the people you agree with.

  11. – Beat me, hate me, you can never break me, all I wanna say is…
    – Valtteri, it’s Mohammed…

  12. I’ll try to be polite as possible, I don’t think we really need to turn F1 into carnival of political statements. It should be regulated otherwise it gets out of hand. As many say if you want to talk about something that doesn’t necessarily concern nature of motorsport then feel free to talk via personal social media as a private person.

    1. And that is exactly what Valtery did, someone from a private media asked a question to him, in a private setting, on his own time, off racing season, outside of any F1 facilities. One quote made it to this “private” site and the Killwoke crowd explodes.

    2. Agree. Race at the event. Do your talking after the event or before it starts. There are enough days in a week and drivers have their own social channels.

  13. If you’re not honest, the first thing you want is secrecy! Whereas if you are honest, you don’t care who knows.

  14. Clearly, asking drivers to talk about their politics on their own time, and not at races, should not be a problem to anyone except the people writing these articles who are determined to incite misguided opinions! Unfortunately, in this polarised society we need to start writing down the ‘unwritten’ rules before everything goes to “pot.” Cheer up!

  15. And clearly asking the FIA, FOM, F1 etc not to knowingly put themself in controversial positions in the 1st place. Shouldn’t it be the “unwritten” written down rule. How ridiculous does that sound to you?, I keep seeing the same people criticizing the excess of rules in F1 advocating for more rule in F1. It’s laughable.

  16. petebaldwin (@)
    30th January 2023, 16:39

    Ultimately, I actually think this is a good thing for the drivers.

    Throughout history, people have made huge sacrifices to try and bring about change for the better. Whilst getting in trouble with the FIA doesn’t really compare to that, it certainly shows that you’re not just saying what you’re saying for good PR – you actually mean it. I think we all know Seb would have ignored this rule. Let’s see if any others do. It’ll certainly get reported a lot more heavily if you make a statement that bring about an FIA punishment….

    For the drivers who don’t want to say anything, they can just hide behind statements like “The FIA will punish me if I answer that question” so in reality, it’s win/win.

    The only losers from this rule are drivers who are virtue signalling because it exposes them a bit… If the threat of a small penalty from the FIA is enough to get you to stop fighting for human rights and equality etc then you were never really “fighting” in the first place.

    1. An interesting and relevant way of looking at it.

  17. Being that F1 has jumped the Shark and its all about the show and $$$, the FIA doesn’t want the lead actors tarnishing the reputation of there gravy train.
    Bit like the Snow White’s at Disneyland that have to adhere to a strict policy of not bringing Disney into disrepute, the FIA want the same.
    Quite apt really as there both hideous companies….

  18. Who pays the bills? SA/China/Bahrei/Qatar etc. Governments that don’t appreciate people speaking their mind. Just look at how the Qatar royals reacted to the football fans. They where genuinely flabbergasted people had the nerves to call a duck a duck.

  19. Even, as someone who has found a lot Lewis’ recent statements mockable, I agree with Lewis here. Moreover, I am not sure we want a man who said the following heading the FIA let alone making decisions like this one:

    “ women who think they are smarter than men, for they are not, in truth”.

  20. As always, those that agree most with drivers being banned from political statements are those that have a problem with them saying anything about equality, diversity or social justice.

    Often also the same group that bang on about free speech and cancel culture.

  21. What does it mean to be “neutral” in todays world? To turn a blind eye? To ignore the atrocities that governments are perpetrating on their own people.?To have no comment about police brutally?To pretent that Women and children are not being kidnapped, sold off, killed raped? Is that what it means to be neutral? At least now we are selling our souls for a price alittle higher….

    1. What does it mean to be “neutral” in todays world?

      The same thing it has always meant.

      NEUTRAL (adjective)
      : not engaged on either side (specifically : not aligned with a political or ideological grouping)

      It does not mean it is not to care about things. It does not mean that you can’t work for positive change. And it most certainly does not infer support of something.
      In this case it is about respect – respect for those you may agree with and also respect for those who have a different opinion, different values, different beliefs, different whatever.

      1. That in itself is being aligned. By not being aligned u are being aligned… Lol.

        1. Great comment….. I’m glad you made yourself laugh.
          I’m laughing too, but not with you….

      2. The problem is that it’s impossible to be completely neutral, at least in appearance. Every action we take will have a political implication.

        If you are a public figure and have dinner with an MP and make no statement opposing them, you give the appearance of supporting that MP and, by extension, their party and world views.

        The same is true with the FIA: by having events in controversial regimes, inviting their politicians/leaders and military to take part, and making no statement to the contrary, it gives the impression of support for them.

        Previously, the drivers have been free to voice opposition to these political entities, which has brought a measure of balance and given the appearance of neutrality: they may be taking there, but the drivers are free to speak out against them. By banning any opposing position being voiced, it lends even more credence to the appearance of the FIA supporting these regimes and their policies, rather than remaining neutral.

  22. To kpcart

    You want someone’s tirade removed?

    I thought your comment to this was deplorable. Yet it stands.

    I won’t paste it here.
    I’m still appalled.

    Anyone interested can find it here.

  23. Race at the weekend event. Do your talking after the event or before it starts. There are enough days in a week and drivers have their own social channels. Need be, create your own event or motorsport organisation. Can we now go racing again please?

    1. If accept that, if we banned all elements from the event which were not motorsports related: no discussions of the personal lives of anyone, no nationalistic bull at the start of every event, no politicians/rappers/TV stars being interviewed, given TV time or handing out trophies.

      Remove all non-Motorsport content and this isn’t unfair. Leave everything else but dictate what the drivers are allowed to speak about, that’s neither fair nor neutral, and makes next to no distance to the amount of non-Motorsport content in the event.

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