Stefano Domenicali, Zandvoort, 2022

F1 is prepared to cancel races over human rights concerns – Domenicali

2023 F1 season

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Formula 1 is prepared to withdraw a round of the world championship from a country where progress on human rights “is not going in the right direction”, according to CEO Stefano Domenicali.

The series has drawn criticism for agreeing deals to hold races in regimes with poor human rights records, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

F1 held its first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in December 2021. Three months later the country held a mass execution of 81 people, two weeks before holding its second F1 round.

Some drivers including Lewis Hamilton have spoken out after being contacted by death row inmates and their families in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Domenicali insisted F1 “do really care about this issue” and claimed it is prepared to take direct action in response to human rights concerns.

“We have also in our contracts, very clear articles that if we see something that is not going to the right direction, we have immediately the benefit of stopping our relationship,” he told Sky. “There are independent auditors that are following that.”

However Domenicali says F1 can be a force for positive change by bringing those countries to wider attention. “I do believe, once again, that we are much more powerful if we are going in places where they are showing real will to change and the spotlight of Formula 1 will help the speed of change to be faster.”

The FIA has prompted criticism from drivers by introducing changes to its International Sporting Code for 2023 prohibiting them for voicing support for political causes without the governing body’s approval. Drivers have called for clarification for the clause which appears to give the FIA broad powers to clamp down on how they choose to express themselves.

F1 introduced an initiative known as ‘We Race As One’, which gave drivers a platform to demonstrate their support for issues of concern to them. It ran through 2020 and 2021 before being dropped at the start of last season.

Domenicali said drivers should be allowed to share their views but must not make any political statements. “We were the one with ‘We Race As One’ to promote discussion using our platform in the right way,” he said. “I do believe that it is not a problem of putting something on the mouth of the drivers that will prevent the drivers to communicate with a community, it’s a matter of respect.

“What I don’t like is when you want to say something to attack another one. That is wrong. There are also, as you know, when are a driver, respect for the partners that you are working with. So it’s something that you need to be balanced as always in life.

“No one will put any barriers on that unless you are going to be political, because we are sport dimension, but to highlight the attention on certain subjects that are the centre of the discussion of today’s comment, there will be no problem in my opinion, and I’m sure that the FIA is sharing that view.”

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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 “F1 is prepared to cancel races over human rights concerns – Domenicali”

  1. some racing fan
    13th February 2023, 9:20

    Really?! Are you?! Then put your money where your mouth is and cancel Saudi Arabia (which also has an unsafe circuit), Qatar, Baku and maybe also the other two Middle Eastern rounds! And on top of that tear up all those contracts too and maybe also tell them where they can stick it!

    1. Cancel all US GP’s

      By the way I thought they were keeping sports and politics separate

      1. That was the FIA.

        Liberty is a completely different organisation ;)

    2. I’ll believe it when I see it but even talking about it is progress (-8

    3. I love how when everyone thinks of human rights issues they instantly think of the middle east. What about China? US? Japan? There are so many countries with records as bad as, if not worse than, middle eastern countries. If you’re going to care about human rights, do it everywhere, not just where it fits an agenda.

      1. Why US and Japan?

        1. US : Guantanamo
          Australia : Naru island

          1. some racing fan
            13th February 2023, 22:30

            China: Ueghyur forced re-education camps where millions have died, 5,000 people a year executed, no freedoms for anyone, aggression towards Hong Kong and Taiwan, etc, etc, etc.

            Don’t compare the US and Japan to China. The US and Japan’s human rights record quite simply does not compare to China’s, or the Middle Eastern countries, or Russia’s, for that matter.

          2. Berhard Colleary
            14th February 2023, 12:29

            Spelt Nauru, another still running in New Guinea though both now lightly populated. Preferred by the previous Tory Oz government over Christmas Island because they’re ‘overseas’, could ignore bona fide refugees and their rights, paying private contractors richly to run the internment camps and stop visitors including the press and advocates from visiting.
            Oz government also conducts secret trials where the accused isn’t allowed to see evidence and they’re more than happy to prosecute defence council.

  2. Great. Time to cancelled all US races for it’s war crimes.

    1. some racing fan
      13th February 2023, 9:46

      Well with that logic we should cancel the British, Belgian, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Hungarian and Japanese GP’s for all their colonial genocides and/or other war crimes throughout history?

    2. some racing fan
      13th February 2023, 9:48

      Well with that logic we should cancel the British, Belgian, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Hungarian and Japanese GP’s for all their colonial-related crimes and/or other war crimes throughout history?

      1. It’s worth looking at, for sure. Still, while it’s perhaps not always satisfactory for all involved, there is a difference in how people perceive centuries old history and things that happened when Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton were winning F1 World Championships.

      2. some racing fan,
        The difference is that the US is the real godfather of the war machine in this world. After the colonial era, they have been involved in every single conflict on this planet directly or through proxy wars. While the colonial history of those countries can surely be questioned, the US and also the UK are and will still carry on their war crimes and there is no sign of them stopping.

        In the US for example, the war industry subject for both the democrats and the republicans is just like the bible for Christians. They can disagree on everything, even the first amendment, but whenever the war industry lobbyists pull the trigger whoever is in charge will declare war.

        It’s really amusing for F1 and its mother company Liberty Media to lecture others about human rights in the meantime the Guantanamo Bay detention camp is still operating. The US can literally lock anyone there indefinitely without a trial in the name of the war on terror.

        Furthermore, it was revealed that the British ministry of defence have deployed a team of interrogators to Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison at the height of arguably the biggest scandal ever in terms of torture, abuses and humiliation of prisoners. This was discovered during an investigation into Britain’s involvement in the CIA’s rendition programme and the mistreatment of detainees.

        Moreover, UK also had their own version of Abu Ghraib when evidence of systematic and brutal mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at a secret British military interrogation centre emerged in 2008 during high court proceedings brought by more than 200 former inmates.

        In 2021 a report broke that accused the National Institutes of Health division of providing a grant to a lab in Tunisia to torture and kill beagle puppies for scientific experiments in what was called #BeagleGate.

        It’s not about the colonial era, it’s about the current poor human rights record of both the USA and the UK who don’t waste any opportunity to promote their countries as the international world police.

        1. WELL SAID Tifoso 1989.!!!. You’ve truly pulled the scab off of the supposed champions of human rights the USA and the UK.

        2. You might want to get out of your mom’s basement once in awhile. There is no comparison between the wester liberal democracies and Russia, China, Saudi, Bahrain and any of the other dictatorships F1 goes to. The west is just objectively better. Not perfect, but again no comparison to these other countries.

          1. some racing fan
            13th February 2023, 22:27

            + 1

          2. This is not FB or Youtube comment section. Try to argue your point instead of insulting me. I’ve reported your comment btw.

          3. The west is just objectively better. t

            That’s how I grew up as a racialist and a racist It didn’t need explanation or indoctrination. It was just so obvious that we white people were superior in every way.

            Fortunately I grew up and learned to think for myself and made the changes.

        3. some racing fan
          13th February 2023, 22:26

          OK. First of all, you’re right about the US and it’s war policies. But that has changed quite a lot since the Bush administration. And yes, Guantanamo Bay should have been closed years ago.

          And I also want you to know that over here, an overwhelming majority of Americans were completely against the US federal government’s foreign policy in the Middle East over the last 20 years. It’s a disgrace, it should never have happened and the wrong policitians being paid off by corporate lobbyists representing defence contractors were in power at the time. Bush and Cheney made a lot of money off the Iraq War, and they should be in prison. Most Americans feel that way. And our gun laws are a complete joke that cost thousands of lives, particularly in the Southern states where gun laws are at their most loose. Again, an overwhelming majority of Americans these days want more gun laws that protect innocent people from lunatics who would have access to guns.

          But over here, although we don’t have our own version of the NHS yet, we do not run penal colonies, forced labor camps or re-education camps (although this is the most incarcerated nation in the world, thanks to it being the 3rd most populated nation on Earth), nor does the federal government systematically restrict or outright ban freedom of speech and expression, selectively enforce laws, barbarically execute people, execute people en masse, torture our own citizens, ban religions (I personally am very much against any kind of organized religion), nor do we have any other kind of anti-democratic laws that strip away at guaranteed rights. We have a robust democracy just like every Western European country has.

          So don’t compare the US, as flawed as it is to totally dysfunctional, corrupt, murderous, anti-democratic, unlivable regimes like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Azerbaijan and Bahrain. We certainly have improvements to make, but we are not as deeply broken or unfixable as those countries are. Not only is that short-sighted and ignorant to make that comparison but it is rather dishonest, if you ask me.

          1. Spoken like a true patriot….

          2. First replace democracy with the correct term, duopoly.
            So the overwhelming majority is opposed to what the govt delivers. Well that’s “democracy” for you.

          3. some racing fan,

            So don’t compare the US, as flawed as it is to totally dysfunctional, corrupt, murderous, anti-democratic, unlivable regimes like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Azerbaijan and Bahrain

            I have never did btw. For starters, my point of view of countries like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar… is well documented on this proper forum. I don’t have to repeat myself in every comment and I’ve never said that they are better in terms of human rights than other western countries.

            My point is that countries like the US, UK… who don’t waste any opportunity to lecture other countries about human rights and play the role of the world’s international police should look at their own poor human rights record first.

            Another thing is that if you believe that the USA and the UK for example are democracies then I think you should re-read carefully what the world democracy means. Those countries do have better freedoms, freedom of speech, better human rights and laws for their citizens but certainly they are not a democracy.

            Democracy means people rule. An electoral system where the majority of eligible people to vote choose who will be running their country. Though the issue is the flawed electoral systems that simply country the people’s will and enable a small minority to take control in those countries. The prime minister that will govern the UK for the next 2 years is unelected.

            In the US, only 2 parties are allowed to exist and if you want to adhere to those parties you have to accept certain ideas and ideologies without any questioning. For example the war machine industry subject is something agreed between the two parties. The electoral system is flawed to say the least, you can theoretically have the majority of the votes and still lose the election.

            As you have mentioned yourself, most Americans are against wars, gun violence and other issues but nothing is done because the minority in control are taking the entire country hostage to their ideology. Is this democracy ? I don’t think so.

      3. Then we can cancell all the races in the US, France (whole Europe) Japan, China, South + MIddle America. So only Australie and Canada is left.

        1. Australia can be also placed on that list, because of their historical abusive treatment of the Aboriginal people.

          1. Have you ever been there? I doubt you’ve made it off of mommy’s teat yet.

          2. If we’re going down that route, I’d expect all British drivers and British based teams to voluntarily withdraw from the Australian G.P. in acknowledgemt of “Invasion Day” or “Survivors’ Day” and the ongoing hurt.

        2. Bernhard Colleary
          14th February 2023, 12:34

          Oz should hang also it’s head for a short list of fairly recent regional, ‘colonial’ behaviours: East Timor being the worst example.

  3. I’d rather they don’t say anything about it than claim this sort of thing. Who’s right and who’s wrong depends entirely on a point of view. Now I’m not saying those who are evil aren’t, but those who claim to be the liberators of the world, the prime examples of liberty and free speech are far from clean, and they happen to be the owners of the sport right now.

    1. There is definitely a bias involved. Still, that’s partly on the FIA for making ‘human rights’ – in itself a very Western concept – a part of its mission statement.

      What Domenicali is of course actually saying is that F1 will race anywhere they throw money at it, except for when the negative attention and association of F1 with its hosts starts to outweigh the cash benefit. And thus their contracts have an exit-clause for when that happens.

    2. Honestly, I don’t buy that at all @fer-no65. Sure, sure, Liberty is a USA company and they look at the world from a “western” point of view.

      But really the issue here is that it will be pretty much inconsequential what exactly media say about the likes of S.A., Quatar, Bahrain or say China so long as these countries pay huge amounts into the coffers of Liberty without the company facing issues actually accepting that money, I seriously doubt there will be any serious steps made to cancel those races.

      They probably cancelled Russias race mostly because the sanctions might mean legal issues to even accept Russian money for that race. Not because Liberty or the teams suddenly felt a bout of understanding violations of human rights. Otherwise they would have already been addressing all those issues before Putin became a regular visitor to the F1 podium and the Bahrain race was reinstated as soon as they could get away with it.

      1. @bascb that also. It’s a biased and hypocrite combo!

  4. I don’t believe you, Stefano.

    1. some racing fan
      13th February 2023, 10:00

      No one should

  5. Noob question. Why does Liberty decide where F1 races? Isn’t it FIA’s responsibility to decide where to race?

    The commercial rights holder (CVC / Liberty) are the ones who help in finding new countries new circuits, but finally, FIA has to approve the circuit and make the calendar, right? I am confused. And especially now with Ben Suleyam and Liberty warring over differing issues, would be useful to know exactly where responsibility of one ends and that of the other starts.

    1. some racing fan
      13th February 2023, 10:00

      The FIA sets the regulations for specific series, sanctions and manages races and grades circuits based on their safety, among other things – like they do for multiple racing series throughout Europe and a few other series elsewhere. Liberty Media handles all of F1’s business interests.

      Because Liberty Media are the owners of all of F1’s established business interests and divisions, (CVC does not have a say anymore, they sold all their shares in F1 Management to Liberty in 2017), they are in charge of the revenue flow from anything related to the F1 brand (which they of course own the rights to), so they decide how F1 conducts its business- which includes deciding where they race. Someone else can probably explain that in more detail than I can here but that is a simplified version. This is the way it has been since 1981, when Bernie Ecclestone began setting that up to make F1 into a profitable business with more serious people involved.

    2. See the FISA–FOCA conflict around 1980 and the subsequent Concorde Agreements for more details (there are brief but decent articles for both on English Wikipedia).

      F1 is basically a tv show, rather than (just) a racing series. The teams are the actors, FOM its management, and the FIA the HSE-like organisation that oversees all the proper safety and technical procedures are followed.

    3. sumedh, Liberty gets a lot of power over where F1 races due to a tradition, dating back decades, that for the most part races go to the highest bidder (with some exceptions for a variety of reasons, primarily to do with balancing different income sources but also including particular notions of tradition and, occasionally, logistics).

  6. Make sure again that everyone knows Lewis virtue signaled about it. But still took the money. You always leave that part out

  7. This sounds very much like a political statement to me. I think it’s time to give some sanctions to Mr. Domenicali, don’t you think FIA?

  8. The way I read his quote, he is rather saying that F1 *can* withdraw from contracts with countries with poor human right records, but that they would rather not to. Human rights in Saudi Arabia are definitely not going “in the right direction.”

  9. Time to get some empty words in pre-season

  10. Coventry Climax
    13th February 2023, 10:15

    I’m not surprised by what he says. Have found him to be a hypocrite from day one I came to know about his existence.

    To those here, claiming they then might as well then scrap half of the western GP’s for their human rights history:
    There’s a huge difference between childlike wailing ‘But he’s done it too’ and acting according to general contemporary insights. The first would condone slavery, the second says we’d better not do that again.
    The first, by the way, was the Infantino reaction to the Qatar protests. Says a lot about this man as well.

  11. By reading some peoples arguments i say lets not have any laws that safe guard human rights. Lets not have any rules that govern people. Almost if not Every country has had and has some form of human right challenges etc. The Death penalty for 80 plus people is not in itself a human right ussue. Many 1st world countries gave the death penalty. The issue is whether at present not 100 years ago… Are these rules, laws been used to oppress groups of people? Are these rules or laws used to deny people their basic human rights. And i out emphasis on human rights that are universally accepted by today’s standards not 100 years ago.

    1. And i out emphasis on human rights that are universally accepted by today’s standards not 100 years ago.

      But whose standards?
      There’s nothing universal about it.

    2. Too subtle for me, are you talking about Florida or Texas?

    3. Human rights by themselves are a construct. They aren’t laws.

  12. That will limit the options of racing considerably. I think there are very few countries moving in the right direction.

    1. And some of the ones that do aren’t interested in hosting F1 at the prices Liberty is likely to command.

  13. In all honesty i would much rather have USA superpower than a NAZI super power. Or a ex communist country super power. I would much prefer the USA over many an african or asian country. But in the same breathe yes there is no country including the USA that is not without its history amd present issues. But at least the (usa) people have the right to voice their objections with out a whole government led silencing that leads to oppression, disappearance, kidnappings, torture, rapes and deaths.

    1. Coventry Climax
      13th February 2023, 10:38

      During their last elections, and the subsequent denial of its outcome, they came very close though.
      And, unfortunately, they’ve not given up yet either, turning the US into a nazi state.

    2. Tell that to the people in the US who are having their voting rights stolen from under them, their medical and bodily autonomy stolen from under them, their futures still denied them, their freedom sold for prison profits or their lives lost to systemic racism and violence. Their pain isn’t lessened because some of their compatriots get treated with (almost) basic decency. If we’re going to hope for any superpower, can’t we hope for a partial democracy that treats its women, children, workers and minorities with more contempt, greed and disregard than many developing nations.

  14. Is it April 1st already?

    1. No, I think Stefano sincerely believes these words will convince investors, if nobody else, that Liberty opposes the FIA in this sort of matter.

  15. Liberty is going to take as much Saudi’s money as they can get their hands on, they’d do the same for any loaded autocracy.
    Their filthy lucre is are good as that of any climate wrecking oil company or crypto pyramid builder so there’ll be races in those countries unless it’s absolutely untenable – a big ask if they don’t invade a country with strategic importance.
    However, the House of Saud for instance is courting the international community ie. spending big on sportswashing, so the corollary is they’re vulnerable to bad PR (or at least that outlay is vulnerable), so as much noise and some decent press about the actual problems due to the regime each time they host a race may result in some loosening of the chokehold for the locals and neighbours.

  16. Domenicali is trying to rein back on the hard line previously taken in view of the negative comments by some drivers, commentators and media outlets. In practice I doubt anything will change. Liberty will still keep taking the money from dubious regimes unless there is some huge international scandal or an illegal invasion, etc.

    Domenicali is just putting a nicer spin on things to try to show the FIA have listened.

    1. Domenicalli isn’t in the FIA. He’s in Liberty, which is currently trying to decide whether to get closer to the FIA or start a lawsuit against it (other intermediate options may exist).

  17. LOL. Raise your children in Saudi Arabia then.

  18. Oh….where to start…so all races in New Zealand from now on then?

    1. No, it doesn’t have a Grade 1 track and is unlikely to want to pay Liberty’s fee (given that certain obligations Liberty has means there’s a floor income which it has to meet to keep the series together).

  19. Formula 1 is prepared to withdraw a round of the world championship from a country where progress on human rights “is not going in the right direction”, according to CEO Stefano Domenicali

    F1 held its first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in December 2021. Three months later the country held a mass execution of 81 people, two weeks before holding its second F1 round.

    So as long as they limit executions to 80 or less next year, they will still be “going in the right direction.” Or maybe the same number of executions but three weeks before the F1 race would suffice.

  20. …. and from next December, turkeys will be voting for Christmas…

  21. This site keeps referring to the Liberty commercial franchise company as ‘F1″. That is wrong as Liberty does not own F1 the FIA does although Dominicalli increasingly behaves as if he does.

  22. Then why are the constantly adding more races in countries and states with appalling records on human rights? And it’s far too easy to point at the Middle East for this. F1 shouldn’t be returning to China. And it shouldn’t be racing in Florida or Texas.

    F1 will never pay more than lip service to human rights because the rule of thumb has always been, the more immoral the regime, they more they will pay for their race.

  23. Human rights aren’t political.

    What I will say is I think Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s attempts at sports-washing have backfired. I know I’ve had a lot of conversations about the appalling human rights issues in those countries I would have otherwise not have had. I’m sure I’m not alone. Just look at this article, highlighting those mass executions.

    1. Suggest you do a little more reading.
      Look at the number of people put to death in Texas and Florida, and the people on death row … how women’s and non-white, and LGBT rights have decreased in there in recent years, how freedoms have been removed, and how many government theft and corruption cases there are and have been.
      Then there’s the mass shootings and lack of laws to protect children and citizens from corporate lobbying.
      etc …

      Don’t be blinkered and biased.

    2. @dang Human rights are definitely political. There is nothing that can be done to make them non-political.

      The definition of politics includes “the principles relating to or inherent in a sphere or activity, especially when concerned with power and status.” Human rights are a method of describing such principles that involves ascribing particular certain powers and statuses (in the form of establishing a certain baseline expressing the minimum amounts of powers/status to be given) to groups of people (“everyone” counts as a group of people). Thus, human rights are politics – as can be seen by generations of human rights campaigners and their interactions with those in power, across the world.

  24. So if that happens is he also saying F1 may be worth less than $16billion?
    I’m outraged!

    1. @davedai Being valuable enough to be able to turn down money is an expression of wealth in itself.

  25. How is F1 supposed to put food on the table with a value of less than 16 billion…. Oh the poverty… oh the struggle…

  26. The amount of people on here saying that the US, UK, and the West are the worst human rights abusers or are on par with the Middle East, is insane and moronic.

    Yes, the US military industrial complex has too much control over politicians. For instance, after the first Afghanistan war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, there should have been more effort to help Afghanis rebuild there nation. However, the complete regression to strict sharia and appalling treatment of women in such a short time after the withdrawal of forces leave little doubt over who is truly evil. I’d like to see some of the people commenting here look an Afghani teenage girl in the eyes, who has now been pulled from school and forced to cover up, how great it is that the US isn’t there anymore.

    More generally, in western countries, the populace is able to speak out against what we consider human rights abuses. Perhaps we do not do it enough, and our media don’t do their jobs, but try organising a protest for woman’s or LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia and see what happens.

    Lastly, the constant reference to colonialism as if it is the source of all evil in the world is rediculous. As is to imply that only western countries are guilty of this. Perhaps look into conquests of the Turkish empire, the expansion of Islam into north Africa, the Barbary slave trade.

    Our systems are flawed, and lobbyists have corrupted politics, but at least we still have a decent form of democracy and the people can have their say. Compare this to China or Russia, with a single ruling party with no competiton. Or, to the Emerati, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. Better yet, go talk to any of the millions of people who immigrate from the aforementioned countries to western countries and try complain to them about how corrupt and bad things are in the West. They’ll laugh at you.

  27. The first races that would be in danger are COTA and Miami.
    They’re the only two races in regions where the human rights record us getting worse.

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