Formula 1 drivers are seeking clarity from the sport’s governing body over new restrictions on what they can and cannot say.
Logan Sargeant, who will make his debut in F1 this year, said drivers want the FIA to explain exactly how far the clampdown will go.
“We’re still waiting for further clarity from the FIA on what it exactly means,” he told media including RaceFans at today’s Williams launch event, adding he hopes there will be a “reasonable solution for everyone.”
Last year F1 withdrew the ‘WeRaceAsOne’ initiative it introduced two years earlier, in which drivers had the opportunity to express their views on topics such as diversity. Alexander Albon said the new clampdown, which came 12 months after Mohammed Ben Sulayem was elected as FIA president, impinged upon the drivers’ right to speak freely.
“One of the main things that I took from it was more the clarity of the situation, because it seems quite a broad subject,” he said.
“As we know, politics and stances, it seems it’s a very sensitive area. So we need clarity from the FIA on what they’re trying to tell us.
“On a personal side it is somewhat confusing, actually. I think for you guys maybe it’s the same. But of course we were very much for WeRaceAsOne and all these kind of situations. And now it seems like Formula 1 or FIA are trying to go away from that.”
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The drivers and the FIA “need to be open in dialogue about what they’re trying to do,” said Albon. “But of course we need to be able to speak freely to some extent. I’m sure we’re going to get clarity later what they’re trying to say… [in the regulations].”
“With who we are, and the media, and the engagement that we have to our fans, and to people who work in Formula 1, a lot of people come to us and look at us as spokespeople for issues around the world,” Albon added. “And I do feel like it is a responsibility for the drivers to make people aware of these kind of situations.”
Max Verstappen joined the criticism of the FIA’s new stance last week. “I’m normally not that outspoken because first of all it’s tough as a racing driver to be fully committed to that as well in terms of going into everything and making sure that you know all the facts right,” he told Sky.
“But I don’t think it is necessary because in a way you are basically making sure that people are not allowed to speak any more, which I think we should be allowed. Of course some people will speak a bit more, some not, but it was probably a bit unnecessary.”
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65 comments on “Drivers want clarification from FIA over “confusing” politics clampdown”
6th February 2023, 15:32
Still playing dumb. They know exactly what it means.
Don’t say anything that will be seen as unacceptable anywhere in the world, and you’ll be fine.
Especially don’t say it at an FIA sanctioned event.
It’s pretty simple.
6th February 2023, 15:46
That would amount to “Don’t say anything at all”, given that almost anything could be seen as unacceptable somewhere in the world. Heck, speaking about motorsports would be considered unacceptable by my mother, so that’s off the table by your rules. The drivers, team members, officials, pundits and everyone else should just remain silent permanently.
6th February 2023, 16:13
That would be OK. Especially Crofty.
Does your mother work for the FIA?
They aren’t my rules, by the way. I just think they are perfectly suitable for their intended application. Motorsport is truly global (in multiple senses of the word) and is presented to an enormous range of cultures and to an equally large range of human values. It’s not hard to respect all of them, even if you don’t agree with them.
If there truly is anyone in F1 or any other level of FIA-sanctioned motorsport who truly does not understand what these rules mean, then all they need to do is just put in a request to speak about whatever takes their fancy at an official FIA media session.
I’m willing to bet they’d get nothing more than a polite warning for a first ‘offence.’
6th February 2023, 16:45
No, of course my mother doesn’t work for the FIA. She does live somewhere in the world, though, and wherever she is it is unacceptable to discuss motorsports. Therefor, if you are banned from saying anything which would be considered unacceptable anywhere in the world, you cannot speak about motorsports.
I know this is reductio ad absurdum, but it does illustrate just how bad things can get. There are certainly places the world where, say, the impact of motorsport on climate change would make speaking of it unacceptable. There are places in the world where there even having certain people within the F1 circus speaking would be considered distasteful.
Would it, for instance, be acceptable for a competitor to speak of a female relative taking part in motorsports? That could be seen as unacceptable in Saudi, even though to most people it’s just a competitor speaking of another motorsports participant. It’s the furthest thing from political to most, but there are some for whom it would be considered highly political.
7th February 2023, 2:13
Seriously? What’s so bad about motorsport?
And why then, knowing that she is so against it, do you indulge in it? That seems a bit disrespectful, doesn’t it?
Does she know that you do? Or do you keep it a secret?
I’ll assume she knows and accepts that you have your personal interests, but that she just doesn’t want to hear about this one – and so you both show respect for each other. You don’t talk about it with her, and she doesn’t prevent you from enjoying it.
Likewise, many F1 viewers (and promoters) don’t want to be bombarded about a bunch of unrelated topics during a racing event, so there’s so harm in respecting that, is there?
Given that the FIA support female-only and mixed-gender racing, I’d suggest that would be perfectly acceptable.
7th February 2023, 17:22
She finds it unacceptable to discuss it because she doesn’t enjoy it. Therefore, we don’t talk about it around her.
That was my point, though: I don’t discuss it around her, but I do discuss it elsewhere. But if we take your requirement:
Then we would not be able to discuss motorsports because there is somewhere in the world where it isn’t acceptable (one of those being within my mother’s earshot).
I wouldn’t enter the personal residence of a particularly orthodox Christian wearing a rainbow jumper, but I would have no such qualms about wearing one in a public place where there may be people with such beliefs, or even where I knew there would be. I wouldn’t discuss certain political topics with individuals who I knew would be upset by them, but I would have no problems discussing them in a mixed group even if I knew they wouldn’t go down well with some.
If an F1 event is in a place with draconian laws which prohibit certain topics being discussed or promoted, that’s one matter. However, if it is not a matter of the law… The F1 paddock is essentially a public place, and the drivers are not representing the FIA (if anything, they are representing their teams, and the teams have no problem with it). The drivers should be free to discuss anything they wish. If the press don’t think it’s newsworthy, they won’t publish it, and if the drivers do something to upset people, that’s for their “employer” to deal with. It isn’t, or shouldn’t be, the place of the FIA to tell them what is and isn’t OK to discuss.
8th February 2023, 1:00
Interesting that you find it so acceptable to push your personal views and values on others from a distance, but not in a one-on-one setting….
That’s exactly the behaviour that politicians and governments exhibit. Using the safety and protections of impersonal and wide-ranging communication methods to inflict and project their ideas onto others without consequence.
What if your mother happened to be in the area when you did this? You’d be disrespecting her just as much as if you’d said or done it face to face.
Remember a group is just a large number of individuals who still deserve the same respect as when they are alone as an individual.
It’s great that you make that point, because that’s also the point I’ve been making all along.
There’s a time and place (ie a context) for everything. F1 isn’t always it.
Drivers are free to express themselves on social media and in personal interviews and at public events and everywhere else they wish to – just not when it comes to bringing off-topic stuff into the FIA’s space.
Exactly the same as pretty much everyone else who has a job and/or publicly represents an entity other than themselves….
Consider the FIA’s space and property to be analogous to that of your mother’s… It is to be respected.
Absolutely. The F1 paddock is a place of enormous freedoms – sometimes more so than the areas immediately outside of them (when in certain countries). And in that space, the drivers are free to speak their minds through their own media channels on their own time.
But not on official time. Not at press conferences, not on the podium, and not during the competitive sessions. That is the FIA’s F1 time and media space. They don’t ask for much of it, really.
While the drivers are in that official time and space, they do absolutely represent the FIA’s property and values globally, regardless of what Liberty or the teams have to say about it.
Drivers are employed by (or contracted to) teams, teams are contracted to FOM (for media/marketing purposes) but also contracted to the FIA (for safety, regulatory and competitive purposes) as are the drivers for licensing. The FIA most certainly do have the authority to apply their own rules and codes of conduct, as all the competitors have agreed to abide by them beforehand.
12th February 2023, 11:29
I find your take on where I would choose to discuss things interesting.
I have no problem with discussing issues in a one to one setting. However, that’s contingent on the other person being willing to discuss the matter. I’m not going to “force” my views on them if it will upset them or of they just don’t want to discuss them.
In a larger group, I will generally consider the overall view of the group. If one person within a group doesn’t wish to discuss something, but the rest either do or don’t object, it’s acceptable to continue (unless it gets to the point of bullying, of course). There are factors which will weight it on either direction, of course, but it’s no longer a matter of considering just one person’s viewpoint.
There have been many times I’ve been with a group discussing something I don’t wish to, whether that’s football, makeup, or certain political opinions. I can either politely engage, even though it makes me uncomfortable, or I can disengage until the group comes back to something I am interested in/happy to discuss.
The same is true with F1. When parts come up which I don’t want to be part off, I disengage. I will go make cuppa while the national anthem propaganda ceremony is happening, because I don’t have any interest in it. I don’t take any notice of the non-F1 celebrities at the event, because I don’t care about them.
This is my point, though: I have had to to put up with things which have “nothing to do with racing” for decades, and have done so without complaint. However, now others have decided they don’t like another thing which has “nothing to do with racing”, which I actually don’t mind and find interesting, and want to ban it. They can’t extend me the courtesy I’ve been extending them for many years and, at the same time, they criticise me for pointing out that I have been extending them this courtesy.
I would never have made any issue of the other political elements head there not been a massive outcry against things I do not see as political but they do. They obviously consider it unacceptable to just ignore or put up with disliked elements, so why should I continue doing so?
Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta)
8th February 2023, 21:30
@drmouse Silence is also a political position, in many parts of the world.
6th February 2023, 16:10
The FIA Code is quite clear (emphasis added):
Now what do the FIA Statutes say? Again, emphasis added.
Since nobody has been able to point to any utterance by an F1 driver in the last couple of seasons that wouldn’t be OK without the described prior approval, this seems like a bit of a non-issue.
6th February 2023, 16:14
Then nobody has anything to worry about, do they?
6th February 2023, 16:15
Seems the emphasis doesn’t work in a quote. Oh well.
For the purposes of the FIA, an F1 driver who feels the need to explain his tax dodging might go with it being a ‘philosophical opinion’.
6th February 2023, 17:52
But that’s not necessarily “the general principle of neutrality promoted by the FIA under its Statutes”, it’s just one of its Statutes.
Also, it only says “notably” with regards the Statutes of neutrality.
The wording of the regulation is so general as to be able to be applied to practically anything that any competitor says. Hence the requests for clarification.
Also, that regulation doesn’t necessarily only apply at events. The wording is, again, open enough to be applicable to anything a competitor says at any time.
6th February 2023, 19:59
@drmouse True, but that part addresses the main complaint made so far, that the FIA is trying to keep people from speaking out about social and political issues. The FIA’s actual position is not to be neutral but to actively promote (largely Western) political and social views as summarized in concepts of ‘human rights’. The few times drivers have said something that attracted attention, it had to do with those issues. Unless there were some people upset that Vettel likes bees, I guess. But generally that was the overall trend.
As Coventry Climax suggests below, it’d be fun if the drivers wore a shirt that said: “The FIA shall promote the protection of human rights and human dignity.” and just left it at that.
6th February 2023, 18:15
How about Hamilton wearing the ‘Breonna Taylor’ shirt? Or any number of drivers displaying rainbows on their helmets? It seems by the new guidelines neither of those would be granted in all countries. Qatar wouldn’t even let the football players collectively wear rainbow armbands during the World Cup. They contained no words in any language. Literally just a rainbow colored armband. But because the symbolism behind them is generally understood, and Qatar didn’t approve of that symbolism, they were banned. FIA could do the same thing here if they choose, or if one of the host countries objects to whatever the driver/team have requested.
6th February 2023, 18:52
I think that, and more, is the intent. I expect it to be used, not only to ban things the host country disagrees with, but to ban anything which any host country, or any significant population, disagrees with. So rainbow armbands wouldn’t just be banned at the events where the host country disagrees, but at all events, under the banner of “neutrality”. The intent, I believe, is to stop the drivers/teams from doing anything which may upset anyone… Which is, in fact, the absolute best example I’ve ever come across of “political correctness gone mad”…
7th February 2023, 2:17
Unless they are actively trying to upset someone….
And if that is the case, is an official FIA event really the right (respectful) setting to do it in?
7th February 2023, 17:26
But have any of the drivers actually been “actively trying to upset someone”, or have they been promoting issues which happen to upset some people? I would argue that everything “political” we have seen so far has come under the second group. The only times I’ve seen someone “actively trying to upset someone” it has been related to the event in question, not external politics.
8th February 2023, 11:51
I would argue that I don’t think it’s incorrect to say that Hamilton and Vettel have both gone out intentionally to upset, embarrass and shame people who opposed their personal views. That’s part of their strategy to attract attention… Shock factor.
And I would also enthusiastically argue that neither of them considered that their personal cause at the time had absolutely nothing to do with F1 at all, and everything to do with themselves taking advantage of being on TV and having millions of eyes focused on them.
12th February 2023, 10:56
But that’s not the same as intentionally upsetting people.
Protesters who gather, match, shout slogans etc know that they are probably going to upset people. However, that’s not their primary aim. They want to raise awareness of something in an attempt to get things changed, upsetting people is merely a side effect.
People who go on strike from work know that they are going to upset people on doing so, but that is not their primary aim. They are attempting to resolve a workplace dispute, upsetting people is merely a side effect.
Hamilton and Vettel have upset people with their words and actions, but that wasn’t their aim. They wished to highlight issues in an attempt to improve things. Upsetting people was merely a side effect.
As for it not having anything to do with F1:
1) I don’t see how that’s relevant. Many protests have nothing to do with the place they are occurring.
2) Are you honestly saying that, if you had a cause you held dear and a platform which would give it far more attention than anything else you could do, you wouldn’t use it?
3) Many of them do have something to do with F1, at least in terms of the fact that the countries hosting the races are responsible for the issues being raised. Women’s rights in Saudi, issues with racial equality in America. These countries are being given tacit support and prestige on the world stage by F1 holding an event there. That makes the issues at least something to do with F1.
6th February 2023, 20:09
I don’t know about Hamilton’s shirt, but as the FIA itself says, it “[shall] refrain from manifesting discrimination (…) in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect.” Note that it explicitly says, any action – so attempts by the FIA to hide behind a statement that it welcomes people to participate (but not speak about issues important to them) are not going to fly. At least in the coverage of it.
That said, there is always the part that F1 is racing in a country whose laws apply both on and off the track. If a country has a law against certain ‘propaganda’, then the only real choice the FIA has is the one it has taken now. In that sense the FIA is just trying to keep everyone on board; countries, member organizations, etc.
The real choice is with Liberty and F1. It’s ultimately their call to race in certain places.
6th February 2023, 19:44
I’d print article 1.2 on a T-shirt and wear that.
Says more than enough – and shuts up the FIA for a change.
6th February 2023, 19:45
Oh, and maybe stress that third word; ‘shall’.
Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta)
8th February 2023, 21:29
You do realise that means they’re not allowed to speak anything at all, and also are never allowed to be silent?
6th February 2023, 15:53
I can’t remember a previous instance of me agreeing with Max, but I do here. The drivers should be allowed to speak about whatever they like. If this causes damage to the FIA, FOM, their team etc. then this can be dealt with, but muzzling them is not the right way (and makes the FIA look really bad, IMHO).
6th February 2023, 16:15
Outside of official FIA or F1 media.
There is no muzzle here. It’s just being respectful.
6th February 2023, 17:55
The wording of that regulation doesn’t limit it only to the events. In the same regulation, for example, it is an offence to say anything which causes injury to the FIA, which can certainly be used for words spoken/written outside events.
7th February 2023, 2:25
So don’t criticise the FIA or their regulations in public. Talk with them in private, instead. The FIA don’t go out to the media to criticise the competitors, do they.
Said competitors are agreeing to all FIA rules without any pressure or coercion whatsoever. It is 100% voluntary.
7th February 2023, 17:28
Only in terms of “agree or don’t take part”. That’s not exactly voluntary for a top single-seater racing driver. Them leaving in response to such rules would not be much different from constructive dismissal.
8th February 2023, 1:01
Yep, that’s their choice.
Play by the rules or don’t play.
12th February 2023, 10:40
It’s part of the rules, therefore not voluntary.
Let’s say a person’s boss told them, “One of the rules of working here is that I can take any employee I want to my cabin for the weekend and do whatever I please to them. If you don’t like it, you can go work somewhere else”. By your logic, this would be “100% voluntary”, and the employees should have no comeback. There should be no “constructive dismissal” claims from those who refused, and no advise claims from anyone who felt pressured into accepting.
The FIA are in a position of great power. They are in control of the racing series most of these drivers have been aspiring to since they were very young. This makes any role written by the FIA, “You must do this, or else the dramas you’ve had since childhood will be smashed”. That’s not voluntary.
12th February 2023, 19:01
6th February 2023, 15:59
Censorship. “personal statements” can mean more or less anything. It goes with the claim that Masi retired because of social media when he hasn’t even tried to explain why he changed his mind from “lapped cars will not be unlapped” to “the cars between Max and Lewis should unlap themselves”. Of course he can’t explain, because Bin Sulayem stopped him explaining with an NDA! It’s all dishonesty, and a sport has to have honesty or it’s not really a sport is it. The performance balancing was bad enough already.
But it’s good to hear Max getting into it at least, as well as Alex.
6th February 2023, 16:20
It means “personal.” As in, not representing the FIA’s values, F1’s (or whichever series they compete in) – but the competitor’s own.
F1 isn’t sport, though – not as a first priority, anyway.
6th February 2023, 16:35
So, if the driver’s own “personal” opinion is that another competitor was at fault for an incident, but that opinion is not that of the FIA (they ruled the opposite way or even haven’t yet ruled on the incident), they are not allowed to speak about it.
You see how quickly such rules can be misinterpreted and/or abused?
7th February 2023, 2:34
Now you’re just being silly.
Certainly not with this example, no.
This would be a racing incident, which is something fully supported for communication purposes by the FIA’s values.
Unless a competitor attempted to discredit, or damage the image of, the FIA by doing so, of course.
But there have been other rules to cover that off for a long time before this.
7th February 2023, 17:31
So where is the line drawn. You made a simple statement of
But clearly it’s not that simple, because there are some things which they are allowed to discussed which are not the FIA’s values/opinions but their own.
This is why it needs clarification. Every time you try to simplify it, there is another question to answer. This is a complex issue, the regulations are far from clear (and even contradict other parts of the regulation), and the drivers want to know where the line is.
6th February 2023, 19:42
You’ve described the problem perfectly S!
A world in which no-one is allowed to disagree with the government (it’s a repressive autocracy like Mohammed is used to), and there’s not as much reason to watch as there would be if it was a competition purely on awesomeness.
Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta)
8th February 2023, 21:32
S, that would require the FIA to be consistent in its own beliefs, an area where it has repeatedly and spectacularly failed over the past few years.
9th February 2023, 0:41
The FIA don’t need to be consistent if they don’t want to be. It’s their choice to take everything on a case by case basis, and if that results in inconsistency then that’s just the way it is.
Just like their racing decisions, it’s impossible to be perfectly consistent as every thing they have to deal with is different.
12th February 2023, 19:04
So, the only safe position for the sender’s is to remain completely silent unless they’ve got worn consent from the FIA for the exact wording they are going to use. Otherwise, they are risking being punished, because the FIA “don’t have to be consistent if they don’t want to be”.
And you say this doesn’t restrict free speech?!?
Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta)
8th February 2023, 21:31
@zann Michael Masi is contractually forbidden from explaining why he did what he did.
12th February 2023, 20:53
yes @alianora-la-canta. Who wrote the contract? That’s right, our governing body, to keep their secrets…secret.
Carl Parker (@mysticarl)
6th February 2023, 16:06
The FIA are getting themselves into a pickle the longer they stay with their current top brass. I’ll leave it at that.
Adrian Hancox (@ahxshades)
6th February 2023, 17:34
Good grief – not complicated – if a driver wants to be an activist they are welcome do it on their own time not on the FIA’s time – its not rocket science.
They can say what you like on their socials, private interviews etc, but at work you toe the company line – so much wailing and gnashing of teeth over nothing really.
6th February 2023, 17:57
As I pointed out above, the wording of the regulation does not limit it to FIA events, and it is in the same list as rules which can and have been used to apply to things said/done outside events.
7th February 2023, 2:35
Again, only if they are attempting to damage the FIA or any of their partners.
7th February 2023, 17:33
Not so. The regulation itself is within the same block as the one about damaging the FIA, and that one applies equally at an event as outside it. Nothing within the regulation itself limits it to just at FIA events, so context would imply that it applies anywhere.
Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta)
8th February 2023, 21:33
S, the regulations as written do not say anything about “attempting” or any similar wording obliging any form of attempt. It is purely based on the FIA’s opinion of whether a statement is not politically neutral/not damaging to the FIA’s neutrality/not opposing an FIA position/etc.
6th February 2023, 18:47
Of course, this is something that didn’t need to be ‘spelled out’ before ‘unsocial media’, Netflix and the ‘Americanization’ of F1! Now the people who hate Saudi Arabia (Americans) and blame them for the new ‘regulation’ are making a mountain out of a molehill! The USA used to send troops, now they send lawyers!
BTW, do you guys like going to a concert and hearing the band give political speeches?
6th February 2023, 19:21
Basic human rights isn’t really politics.
7th February 2023, 2:37
How are human rights legally implemented? Via government policy, right?
That would be a definition of political.
6th February 2023, 19:50
Hate Saudi? I’m pretty sure most of us have never been there, although given the reports of what can get you arrested, I’m not sure many here would actually want to visit the place.
As MichaelN pointed out, the thing is that the content of FIA statute 1.2 is such that pretty much nothing that any driver has said in the last 2-3 years falls outside of it and therefore the FIA are pretty much flapping their jaws with 12.2.1.n – unless they want to say that 12.2.1.n overrides 1.2 and the drivers should simply shut and drive instead of calling out various governments that like to trample on the basic humanitarian rights as recognised by the UN.
Every driver turning up to the Saudi press session in a rainbow T-shirt might make interesting news
7th February 2023, 2:41
But if they did, they’d probably be pretty sensitive and respectful to their new environment, wouldn’t they?
Travel to any ‘foreign’ country and they all have different laws, customs, values and rules. You can’t expect to just waltz in and act like you’re at home without consequences.
Tommy C (@tommy-c)
7th February 2023, 8:16
Conforming out of fear is not the same as respect.
7th February 2023, 8:59
If they conform as a sign of respect, they’ll have nothing to fear.
7th February 2023, 17:45
When I visited Qatar, I conformed out of a combination of respect and fear. I didn’t do anything I felt might upset the local people out of respect. However, I went further than that, not out of respect, but out of fear of the harsh punishments handed out.
That said, I was there to visit friends, not for work or any other reason, and my main fear was that such an occurrence would spoil the visit. I might not have been as careful in different circumstances, like if I was an international figure whose arrest for speaking his mind would cause international outcry and be damaging to the authorities there. It wouldn’t be, in my mind, disrespectful to the local people to discuss issues in a public forum. It may be “disrespectful” to to the government, but then, I don’t have much respect for many governments in general, it’s mostly fear of consequences which keeps me from breaking the (often ridiculous) law.
Tommy C (@tommy-c)
6th February 2023, 21:42
Clearly not a U2 fan…
Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta)
8th February 2023, 21:34
@jjfrazz Unless you think social media predates 1982, that seems implausible.
6th February 2023, 23:10
Instead of jointly asking clarification of the FIA, they should jointly make a fist and say ‘FIA, F Y’.
7th February 2023, 2:47
I wonder how F1 would go without drivers….
I also wonder what Liberty would think of that….
Last time a large bunch of competitors didn’t compete in an F1 race, F1 essentially cut their audience in that market to 1/3rd, and many people still (rightly) feel very strongly about it 18 years later.
Yes, actually. I’d like to see it too. Would be quite memorable.
6th February 2023, 23:41
Nice to see drivers agreeing with the anti censorship fanbase. Guess we’ll see how this regulation lasts after the first few races.
Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta)
8th February 2023, 21:34
@slowmo As long as the last attempt, in early 2022?
7th February 2023, 3:27
Wonder if any drivers feel pressured or co-erced into not having an independent view. Rock the boat, no seat.
7th February 2023, 6:00
There is pressure on them to conform in multiple ways….
There are their own personal supporters and sponsors whom they represent. Then their own teams. Then there are the fans they wish to attract and keep. Then there’s the GPDA (the drivers union). Then there’s F1’s own values. Then there’s the FIA’s values and code of conduct. Then there’s basic decency, manners and respect.
Then they can have and express their own values and ideas if they wish…. Provided it doesn’t clash with the above.
Which sounds like a lot of pressure – but in reality, it’s basically the same set of circumstances that every other person on Earth deals with.
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