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.
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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