Domenicali says F1 won’t gag drivers and expects FIA to clarify politics clampdown

2023 F1 season

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Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali expects the FIA will clarify its position over its clampdown on drivers making political statements and says the sport will not silence anyone.

As RaceFans revealed in December, the sport’s governing body inserted new language into the International Sporting Code for 2023 which banned “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”.

The change has been interpreted by some drivers as an attempt to censor them. Yesterday Alex Albon said “we need to be able to speak freely” and “it is a responsibility for the drivers to make people aware” of certain social issues.

“Politics and stances, it seems it’s a very sensitive area,” he added. “So we need clarity from the FIA on what they’re trying to tell us.”

Even Max Verstappen, who by his own admission seldom speaks out on political matters, raised concerns about the FIA’s stance, saying it was “probably a bit unnecessary”.

Domenicali insisted “F1 will never put a gag on anyone” and indicated the FIA shares the view that drivers should be allowed to put their views forward.

“We are talking about a regulation and the regulator is the FIA,” he told The Guardian. “I believe the FIA will clarify what has been stated, in terms of respecting certain places where you cannot do it.

“I am sure the FIA will share the same view as F1 but they are part of an Olympic federation so there are protocols to which they have to abide.”

The FIA was given full recognition by the International Olympic Committee in 2013. It has previously said the new ISC clauses were in line with the principles of the Olympic Movement.

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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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  • 42 comments on “Domenicali says F1 won’t gag drivers and expects FIA to clarify politics clampdown”

    1. I am happy the FIA installed this new rule. If F1 drivers want to be vocal about their political views, they can do so outside of F1. They should not be using the sport as a platform for them to force their opinion onto viewers. I am here to see them race, enjoy it and forget about about all the negativity for a moment.

      1. I am sorry but that is very naive or even selfish. Your comment clearly shows you are in a privileged situation where you can freely speak your mind, as I am. However there are so many people in this world that do not have this privilege and can’t even fight for it without risking their own lives. So yes if anyone of the drivers feels comfortable or the need to address certain human rights issues they should be allowed to if only for all those who can’t. And apart from politics, where do you think this stops? What if the drivers can’t speak their minds on racing issues, like safety or god forbid boring tracks and processional races? Would you still not care?

        1. It’s exactly the opposite of selfish.

          1. Well if a bit of F1 entertainment is more important to you than human rights, environment ao – yeah you are pretty selfish and if you don’t see that… i am very sorry.

            1. It’s not an either/or situation.
              F1 can be only about F1 without taking anything away from any human rights issues, nor the drawing of attention to them.

              I don’t think you are really very sorry at all…

      2. Fully agree, I watch F1 for the racing and the technology, not the politics. If it just becomes a platform for the rich to exercise their “consciences” then I’m less likely to watch.

        1. I watch it for the racing, too. All the politics had irritated me for decades. National anthems, military displays, politicians handing out trophies… I just want to see racing!

          Now, a driver occasionally speaking about how we should all be nice to one another, that’s fine and really nice to hear. But the politics, yep, get rid.

          1. Are you genuinely offended when you hear another (or any, including your own) country’s national anthem at an international sporting event? The Olympics must be so painful for you. Doesn’t exactly scream politics when someone just run or swam the toughest race of their life, does it. Politics is not the first thing that comes to my mind, anyway – just a show of where they came from.
            Military displays are ‘meh’ and totally a product for entertainment purposes (and not many countries actually use military assets anymore anyway – least of all current-spec deployment-ready equipment). As for politicians handing out trophies – unless you live in that country, they aren’t politicians to you, are they? They are just people. Would you prefer celebrities who don’t even know what all that noise was outside their 6-star hospitality suite for the last 2 hours?

            Not really defending any of these things as I could happily do without all of them, but they certainly aren’t political in any international (or even meaningful) sense.

            1. Playing the national anthem of the winning team/driver I don’t mind as much, particularly at the Olympics. That’s a strong event organised specifically around national groupings, and everyone is competing for their country.

              In F1, I don’t believe national anthems are necessary on the podium. Most competitors are not competing for their country, and the teams are often under a different flag. That said, it’s part off an awards ceremony and I don’t have much objection to it.

              The pre-event national anthem, however, I do have an issue with, mainly due to the way it is organised. Personally, I can go make a cuppa etc while these nationalistic propaganda songs are given airtime. If prefer them not to be there, but I have the choice of whether I watch/listen. I am not forced to stand and publicly show tacit support for the host country, while being gagged from making any comments opposing them during the only time most people will see me. I’m not forced to publicly shake the hands of rulers/politicians I disagree with while being unable to voice any disagreement with their politicians in an equally visible way.

          2. Please don’t try and misrepresent what I’ve said, if you want to make your own point then either stay your own comment or reply to mine sensibly if you are addressing something specific. I likely still won’t agree with you, though.

            1. Does anyone else find it hilarious that Kartguy07 is essentially trying to silence S and censor him in A REPORT ABOUT THE SILENCING OF DRIVERS.

              @kartguy07 sort yourself out

        2. I agree too when there is a ‘political or other statements’ thing in F1 i total ignore it as that is not my interest. I watch F1 for racing and technology.

      3. @spafrancorchamps Unfortunately, the way the FIA has chosen to run the sport makes not being political in F1 outright impossible.

      4. So if that’s the case then you should also be asking the FIA to stop promoting F1 as a way to highlight human right issues when they visit those counties that have them.

        Talking of which then, you have no issues with racing in these countries? They should just reap the rewards of staging F1 and NOTHING be said of the atrocities that go on behind the curtain?

    2. To me this whole situation it’s so funny considering the drivers in this age only say what their sponsors tell them to. “Speak freely”. When it’s the last time this has genuinely happened in F1? What a bunch of hypocrites. I fully support FIA on this one.

    3. Easy dig at the person who came up with this offensive controlling nonsense.

    4. F1 will never put a gag on anyone

      Won’t put a gag on anyone no, but when drivers do start bringing to light human rights abuses in the countries they’re racing they will be told to just shut up and race:

      This is not a new phenomenon and F1 have been telling drivers we’re for racing, not politics, for a very long time:
      (note the change in the first article of the statutes since then, still no action taken by F1/FIA)

      FIA and F1 can beat around the bush, but everybody knows these kind of articles are what they are trying to stop:

      An except from the first statute of the FIA:

      The FIA shall promote the protection of human rights
      and human dignity, and refrain from manifesting
      discrimination on account of race, skin colour, gender,
      sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin, language,
      religion, philosophical or political opinion, family situation
      or disability in the course of its activities and from taking
      any action in this respect

      And when have the FIA/F1 ever promoted the protection of human rights? Washing their hands and saying we’re here to race in countries where human rights are not protected or promoted, and now saying to drivers that they need permission before making any statements, is an absolute joke.

      There needs to be an about-face on this from F1 and the FIA. They need to start taking action and being conscious of who and what they are promoting. If they’re not going to uphold their very first statute, they might as well not exist.

      1. The FIA only has the authority to change their own rules and control their own representation – not those of governments or other outside entities.
        If they say “We are here to race” then they are just saying that they don’t necessarily agree with the place or people they are working with, but can’t do anything about it outside of their business deal.
        And that’s all an F1 event is in this context. Business.

        The question to ask is, if the teams or drivers are so upset about the values a certain country or government holds, why are they choosing to go and race there?
        Boycott it. That’ll get their message out without making them look so hypocritical.
        But they always go and take the money that is offered to them….

        1. When you’re involved in a competition worth billions of dollars on the whole, you can’t afford to boycott a race. Why should you have to sacrifice your competitiveness to send a message when words can do the trick?

          FIA doesn’t have to commit to changing the places they race in, as you say, they practically can not. But they can certainly condemn certain actions those governments take and push for them to change, this would be the promotion of human rights. Silence is condonation.

          1. And this goes for everywhere by the way, not just the Middle East. China and the Uyghur situation, USA and the continual erosion of workers rights and lack of affordable health-care, Australia and how first nations peoples are treated, even the UK is not immune from criticism from human rights’ watch dogs. These issues should be brought up everywhere FIA races and they should be using their incredibly valuable circus to raise awareness and push for us all to better.

            How about actually tackle important things like drivers’ education and access to affordable transport for all while they’re at it.

            Either that or stop pretending, stop the double speak, clear up the statutes and what the FIA actually stands for, and make it clear that F1 really is just a place to go racing, although what a waste that would be.

            1. These issues should be brought up everywhere FIA races

              That would be admirable – but it’s not what F1 or the FIA are for.

              Either that or stop pretending, stop the double speak, clear up the statutes and what the FIA actually stands for, and make it clear that F1 really is just a place to go racing, although what a waste that would be.

              Tell that to all the teams and drivers happily raking in $Hundreds $Of $Millions each year in F1 and associated marketing revenue – in large part from all these terrible regimes, abusers and polluters, no less.
              All these things that F1 can be used for, and yet car racing competition seems to be toward the bottom end of the list of priorities. Just because they have enormous marketing reach, doesn’t mean it should be used for other purposes.
              This same marketing reach and its derived celebrity culture allows drivers enormous personal media platforms outside of F1 to spout their views…. There’s plenty of opportunity there to do good in the world, without taking anything away from anybody.

          2. When you’re involved in a competition worth billions of dollars on the whole, you can’t afford to boycott a race. Why should you have to sacrifice your competitiveness to send a message when words can do the trick?

            Can’t afford it?! This is F1….

            Why shouldn’t they make a sacrifice? Everything comes at a price – it’s worth fighting for, right? Or isn’t it worth it…?
            And words don’t ‘do the trick’ do they… If that were the case, they would have ‘done the trick’ already, with every country that F1 deals with all having the same laws, values, culture and beliefs.
            Clearly that isn’t the case, nor will it ever be. Arguably, it never should be – diversity is not something that needs to be eradicated or rejected.

            The suggestion of the FIA condemning a government is a joke. What would that do? Nothing but alienate themselves from the government and FIA-affiliated motoring/sporting organisations from their other functions. The FIA is a multinational operator, and needs to maintain relations with everyone.
            They can do little more than make a polite suggestion on matters that actually affect them – any more than that is overstepping their authority and disrespecting their relationship.

            Silence is silence. If it means something to you, it’s only your personal interpretation of it.

            1. Righto, go look up sports washing and see what silence means with regards to it, It’s not just a me problem no matter how much you want it to be.

              Words do the trick of raising awareness, it’s not about change, you cant force anyone to change, but you can make them aware what is thought of their actions.

              I don’t think that’s unreasonable. I’ve never said there shouldn’t be diversity of cultures. But all cultures need to respect human rights, including the freedom of speech.

            2. Sports washing… There’s a media buzzword and a half.
              I’ll admit I’ve never heard of anyone who thinks it works – everyone states that it doesn’t and that they see right through it.
              The interpretation of silence is perfectly defined as a “me” problem. The meaning is entirely made up by the viewer or receiver – not by the source.

              Words do the trick of raising awareness, it’s not about change, you cant force anyone to change, but you can make them aware what is thought of their actions.

              As if they don’t know how they are perceived. They’ve been fighting wars over differing beliefs and values for millennia…

              But all cultures need to respect human rights, including the freedom of speech.

              Does that include people of, let’s say, Western culture respecting the rights, values and beliefs of, let’s say, a Middle Eastern culture? Or is it about inflicting Western values on places that don’t share them all?
              Freedom of speech is a very wide-ranging subject, and will always work both ways.
              Additionally, just how free is free? Is it okay for one person to censor another because they feel they are ‘too free?’ That certain cultural boundaries are being overstepped?

              Perhaps it’s easier for the FIA to just place themselves and their series’ in a neutral, globally respectful position.
              Exactly like the code says….

    5. It has to be also said that two of the most proper drivers, of whom one has recently left the sport, are pretty hypocritical in the causes they choose to speak out about, and indeed in those they choose to support our go along with. So I’m quite in favour of these rules, which are in line with many companies and sports alike – in the drivers’ case they still have a platform outside of F1 by virtue of being famous and rich, doesn’t mean anyone should be forced to listen just to watch a sport. They still have to arrange with their teams what they can and can’t say.

      1. two of the most proper drivers

        two of the most vocal drivers

        support our go along with

        support or go along with

        Jeez, autocorrect is killing me

    6. Come on now, they have been gagged for decades. Basically puppets whatever sound bite you get.

      Including “political” statements.

    7. To those that say they watch racing and f1 doesnt need the politics. F1 IS political. For decades. Always has. And always will. There has never been f1 without politics. As long as there are people in F1 there will be politics. The problem now is F1 is racing in countries whose human rights or politics are not something to be proud of. And these countries are now applying pressure on the FIA to silence the peoples views.

      1. Care to give some examples of F1 politics of the past that compare to the current socio-political sideshows not at all relating to the running of F1 events?
        Since it’s been going on all along, there must be a long list of them.

        1. There is. Also, a lot of the ones you pretend aren’t related to the running of F1 events are related (unless you believe nobody watches or works in F1).

          1. But no examples?

      2. Yes indeed, also the irony is that with these new rules the FIA has actually put the spotlights on politics – any comment from a driver now regarding politics will cary extra weight and get more exposure (if only because of possible penalties). So job well done FIA.

        1. If a driver is banned or otherwise harshly punished for a breach of the rules, the spotlight won’t be on the ‘politics’ – it will be on the FIA, the ISC and the driver involved.
          And all the FIA will need to do is cite the ISC, that the competitors voluntarily agree to participate under it, and the potential outcomes for breaches of it.

      3. Wayne,
        It’s up to F1 not the FIA to cancel racing in those countries, period.

      4. F1 has been racing in countries with less than impressive human rights records since its very first race. F1 is a business. It prioritizes money over everything else. And in the end, the vast majority of people will be more than happy to look the other way for 90 minutes to watch the race.

        And there’s not necessarily a whole lot wrong with that. It’s very easy to label someone a hypocrite, but watching an F1 race isn’t endorsing whatever they put up. If anything, by watching you’re making disreputable organizations overpay for their F1 sponsorship. Because whoever is in charge of F1 will most definitely seek to maximize whatever money they can extract from sponsors and hosts. Watching becomes a subversive act!

    8. f1 itarod

    9. Last time I checked I found that it’s F1 not the FIA that manages the F1 calendar and decides which country should be awarded a GP. I could be missing something but if F1 is so concerned with human rights they can stop going to the countries where there is a human rights violations from their point of view and also stop dealing with them as they did with Russia.

      They also should cancel the Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Bahrain, Chinese… GPs and also cancel sponsorship contracts with companies from those countries (Aramco, Fly Emirates…).

      I hope anyone from the F1 human rights champions speak about the disgusting handling of the western countries of the post earthquake humanitarian crisis in Syria and Turkey and then we will see how Liberty will react to “freedom of speech”.

      The aids are currently flowing to Turkey while the war-battered Syria is left to its destiny, with the exception of some countries that have sent aids, due to the sanctions imposed by the US and their European puppets and they made it clear that the humanitarian crisis won’t change that.

      It’s freedom of speech until someone is concerned.

      1. Last time I checked I found that it’s F1 not the FIA that manages the F1 calendar and decides which country should be awarded a GP.

        Exactly this. The criticism is misguided. The FIA represents motoring organizations the world over and seeks to be a partner to everyone involved in the ‘sphere’. From car and truck manufacturers, to local and national governments, to third party companies dealing with everything from fuel, safety, etc. They also organize and standardize national, regional and indeed worldwide racing series. The only influence the FIA has over where F1 gets to race is through its certification process of circuits. But this too is standardized, so all a company or country wanting to buy a Grand Prix has to do is follow the rules, make or adjust a track, and then request a certificate – which it will get if the circuit meets the requirements.

        If people want to complain about F1 racing in countries with disagreeable politics, take it up with the team, drivers and F1 organization who are more than happy to collect the money and move on. When Vettel said he wouldn’t race in Russia. That was making a point; and it effectively forced F1’s hand.

        1. If people want to complain about F1 racing in countries with disagreeable politics, take it up with the team, drivers and F1 organization who are more than happy to collect the money and move on.

          Absolutely. They want “le beurre et l’argent du beurre”. Stefano Domenicali has always been a “yes man” manager. He is parroting Liberty narrative and deflecting here by saying they are against the FIA clampdown on political views. F1 collects the money and the “democratic” championship while the FIA gets the public bashing. If F1 are really concerned about human rights then they should stop dealing with those countries. Same thing is valid for the teams and the drivers.

          We will see how democratic Stefano and his bosses will be if some of the drivers started criticizing anything related to their management of F1.

    10. Like many other vocal contributors here, I watch F1 for the racing and the technology.

      I also admire drivers for being, also within the framework of F1, vocal about human rights, equality (yes, even when they speak from a position of immense personal wealth), and freedom from oppression. And speaking up about climate change, even in between stints in fossil fuel guzzeling cars.

      So, for what it is worth, for me enjoying F1 for the racing AND respecting drivers for speaking up, aren’t by definition the polar opposites that appear to be suggested here.

      And, no, it doesn’t ruin a race weekend for me. Watching a dull race, on the other hand …

    11. And the climb down starts.

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