FIA’s “silly regulation” on drivers’ views is “totally unnecessary” – Russell

2023 F1 season

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George Russell has sharply criticised the FIA’s new rule restricting how drivers may express themselves.

The Mercedes driver said there was no need for the regulation and he expects it to be revised before the start of the new season at the beginning of next month.

The FIA added new text to its International Sporting Code for 2023 stating that drivers must be granted permission before making any “political, religious and personal statements or comments” which could be seen as infringing on the governing body’s neutrality. Several drivers have criticised the rule, including Russell’s team mate Lewis Hamilton, who indicated today he is prepared to defy it.

Russell, who is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, said he’s “not too sure why the FIA have taken a stance like this” when asked by RaceFans about the new regulation.

“I think it’s totally unnecessary in the sport and in the world we live at the moment,” he continued. “Naturally we are now obviously seeking clarification and I trust it will be resolved.

2023 Mercedes W14 - Lewis Hamilton colours
Gallery: Mercedes present new W14 F1 car for 2023 season
“I’d like to think it’s been some kind of misunderstanding but I’m not too sure. But there’s not really a lot more I can say from from that to be honest. Just seeking clarification, see where we will stand.”

Russell indicated other drivers may refuse to go along with the rule. “We’re not going to limit our views or our thoughts because of some silly regulation. We’re all here to have free speech and share whatever views we may have.”

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali intervened in the row last week, stating the sport will not “gag” its drivers and indicating he expects the FIA will clarify its stance. Russell is confident the situation will change before the F1 season begins.

“I’m sure the situation is going to be clarified and I hope and trust it will be resolved before the first race,” he said. “I can’t imagine they want to restrict any of us from any of our views.

“This is part of freedom of speech and we have our right to share our views across whatever platform we wish. So I don’t see this being a concern moving forward.”

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Author information

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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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30 comments on “FIA’s “silly regulation” on drivers’ views is “totally unnecessary” – Russell”

  1. During 2019 it became clear that you only have freedom of speech when you agree with ‘the powers that be ‘.
    Kovid, Putin, so-called-science, climate change… All topics where you are not allowed to have a different opinion.
    That’s the world we live in today, for a majority, unfortunately that’s o.k.

    1. climate change is a power to be? I know it’s a fact but in fact also very powerless. But you forgot religion ….

      different opinion is something i heard a lot when i was in America (US) even when i was talking proven facts and got told that was my opinion … So i was like 1 +1 =3 or you telling me the earth is flat… Then i get rude (and this is what the Dutch get told a lot)

      1. A lot of Americans (US) think that all opinions are equal regardless of evidence. Our schools are mostly daycare and unless you come from a comparably wealthy family or have well-educated parents it’s unlikely you received much of a real education. Add the crazy version of Christianity that is popular here and there aren’t many people left who come to conclusions based on rational thought processes.

    2. You are free to have any opinion you want on any of these subjects – for example, you can post all of this freely on this forum with no harm to you at all. However, other people have every right to disagree with you.

    3. You’re allowed to have a different opinion but that doesn’t mean it’s equally valid as other opinions that are backed by evidence or measurable results. If you have any evidence counter to the prevailing wisdom on any of these matters it would be well received. There is however a good reason why most people with strong critical thinking skills agree so strongly on these matters. The evidence speaks.

  2. Essentially what these drivers are asking for is to be able to preach (to the customers of their employer) values that are not that of the company they work for. Out in the real world, that would likely result in punishment or even termination of employment.

    The reaction to all this is partly a consequence of F1 now being filled with drivers who have never had another (real) job with normal workplace rules and codes of conduct. Maybe everyone just needs to work at McDonalds or wherever for a couple of days to understand what workplace rules are and what they apply to. It isn’t a restriction of freedom unless you actually want to discredit or shame the people you work for, or misuse/exploit their public standing for your own personal gain.
    If they have something good to say that will raise the company’s profile and meets their code of conduct, there should be no problem in gaining approval from them to speak about it as their public representative (which F1 drivers are, whether they like it or not – that’s part of the job). Not asking for approval is blatant show of disrespect.
    Drivers are 100% free to ‘tow the company line’ at work (FIA’s company, in this case, in addition to F1 and their own teams) and make ‘the company’ look good as the public representatives that they are, while maintaining that they are 100% free to speak personally for themselves outside of work – provided they don’t publicly discredit the company, of course…

    1. Essentially what these drivers are asking for is to be able to preach (to the customers of their employer) values that are not that of the company they work for.

      Pretty much confirmed in Norris’ U-turn article here

      We’re doing it because we have a lot of fans, millions of fans, millions of viewers who we want to influence and guide …

      I’m still unsure of what he means by a little bit of a U-turn , maybe like a little bit surreal? Or a 90 degree turn. Who knows.

      If I or others took any action that was against my employers “values”, the reaction was swift and final.

      Leave your keys and corporate card with the CFO do not speak to anyone on the way out, do not attempt to contact any staff in future. If you do their employment will also be immediately terminated. Your office will be packed up and your personal items will be delivered to your he prior to the close of business, together with a cheque for 3 months salary.

      I kid you not!

      1. 3 months pay is very generous.

        Spot on, though – it seems Norris is incapable (or at least unwilling) to separate his profession and working life from his personal life.
        Doesn’t he have millions of followers on his own social media? He’s got a massive public interface for his own personal use right there.
        How did he get those followers and fans? Probably had more than a little bit to do with being given loads of the FIA’s media space as a racing driver… That’s a racing driver – his job…

      2. Essentially what these drivers are asking for is to be able to preach (to the customers of their employer) values that are not that of the company they work for.

        The FIA are not his employers, they do not pay him, he does not work for them.

        1. He represents the FIA and their interests – everything official that happens at an FIA event is their public representation.
          The ISC is their binding contract and code of conduct.

          An F1 driver can’t be an F1 driver without accepting the conditions of, and abiding by, the FIA’s ISC.

          1. No, he does not work, employed or paid by FIA. He works for Mercedes and it appears Mercedes is okay with his freedom of speech and rights of an opinion, just like they are with his co-driver.

            What you’re talking about has no relation to F1 drivers. They’re pretty much the only ones who have their name related to the event and results. They’re not just an employee; they are usually paid more than the CEO because of their importance.
            How would you feel if the star quarterback or nascar drivers were not allowed to talk about god, they’re savior during interviews? They’ve been allowed to speak about their personal beliefs and opinion about that. We get hear that every weekend.

          2. Oh dear. That is embarrassing. You’ve neglected the legal contracts that teams and drivers sign with the FIA too.
            They all include the ISC in its most current and updated form, and if there’s anyone who doesn’t agree to abide by it, you won’t see them anywhere near F1.

            Who cares about money and who gets paid what – it means nothing in this, nor does their subjective ‘importance’ (which is nonsense, anyway). F1 isn’t a completely free market or open, competitive industry where rules are made by each individual or entity that participates (ie the teams) – it’s a privately run racing series that everyone voluntarily participates in, and accepts certain rules and codes of conduct as part of, and indeed a requirement of, their participation. Those rules, regulations and codes are the responsibility and domain of the FIA. Everyone’s participation is at the discretion of the FIA…

            How would you feel if the star quarterback or nascar drivers were not allowed to talk about god, they’re savior during interviews?

            I don’t think it’s necessary, but I don’t have any issue with it. As I said elsewhere, practicing religion is fine and acceptable within the FIA’s rules.
            I can’t comment on NFL or NASCAR rules, as I’m not so familiar those – but they can’t and won’t stop anyone from practicing religion either.
            What they can all do, if they choose (as the FIA has), is to prevent their official media from being misused to advertise it (or similar) without authorisation.

  3. I’ve Lando’d myself by quoting even my replies. Sigh 🫤.

  4. “We’re all here to have free speech and share whatever views we may have.”

    That’s nice when you’re a random guy in some random college, but that’s not how the world works when people are paying you millions to give a good show and thereby bring attention to their corporate backers, especially when that happens as a guest in countries and societies that have no interest in your views.

    Russell is too smart not to understand this, and pretending he doesn’t unfortunately puts him in a position where the FIA can brush him off with an ‘explanation’. Russell knows he can share his views on any given weekday when he’s walking around in an unmarked t-shirt and not actively representing Mercedes, Wolff, Ineos or the FIA.

    1. that’s not how the world works when people are paying you millions to give a good show and thereby bring attention to their corporate backers

      The FIA are not his employers, and they do not pay him.

      1. You don’t seem to know much about corporate contract structure, Ben.
        Do some research, and you’ll understand that when you work with another organisation, you accept the responsibility to represent them publicly.
        F1 is owned by the FIA – everyone who does work in F1 (whether directly employed by the FIA or not) is the public representation of the FIA and their business.

        1. You don’t seem to understand the facts about FIA and F1. Please do your homework, they sold off the rights to FIA for a certain length of time which is currently in place.

          1. Oh no. You did it again…. How unfortunate.
            The FIA didn’t sell off anything – they were forced (under EU law) to lease out the commercial rights for F1 so that they are completely separate from the administrative/ownership aspects of the series. This lease will expire in the year 2110, at which time full commercial rights will revert to the FIA’s hands.
            The FIA still 100% own F1, but in the meantime it is run as a partnership with the Commercial Rights Holder (currently Liberty Media, who purchased the rights at the beginning of 2017).
            F1 has a racing series but can’t promote it or sell it to broadcasters or advertisers on their own (among many other restrictions), and Liberty has broadcast and commercial deals galore – but without the FIA, they have no product to sell.

            You can copy my homework if you like.

      2. Russell is employed by the Mercedes F1 team in order to be a participant in the FIA Formula One World Championship. They don’t care about his views either. The moment he signs on, and becomes a participant in F1, he has to abide by every applicable FIA rule, from the Statutes and International Code to the Anti-Doping regulations and the F1 Sporting Regulations.

        And while I’m pretty sure most drivers spend as much time reading all those as the average guy clicking “I Agree” on an EULA has, that doesn’t mean these rules don’t apply to him.

  5. This story has been the savior of so many sites in the off season – its the gift that keeps on giving, and elicits the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth comments from the usual people clutching their pearls and bemoaning the injustice.

    I am looking forward to the sport starting and the end of this nonsense.

  6. I get it.
    Ban The Bomb. I get it
    Flower Power. I get it
    Moratorium. I get it
    Give Peace a Chance. I get it
    Hell NO we won’t go. I get it

    Things I was passionate about in my youth.
    Even more so when Maslow’s pyramid of motivation was replaced by Calley’s pyramid of villagers’ severed heads.
    Carpet bombing and napalming of villages and villagers

    Well things are getting tough, “we’re out of here” thanks for your help, good luck facing “the enemy alone”

    What I don’t get is these drivers’ objective. I want to hear it.

    Have they met with Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings, Despots, Emirs, Despots and dictators etc and put forward their plan for social change? I want to know.

    What’s the strategy and tactics.
    Or is it,
    Stir the populace into uprising? Then just walk away and if for some unfathomable reason to them it all turns even more violent and oppressive invoke the Bart Simpson,” I Didn’t do it ” defence.
    I want to know.
    I don’t want to hear vague general demands about free speech from Kmag, Lando and George I want to know specifics.
    I never will. But as a last resort after flouting laws, religions, social norms you chasps can pull on the cloak of “social justice” and with a clear conscience head off in search of another place to line your pockets.

  7. All this is nonsense and story like driven. Few people come to mind were Senna and Schumacher who were GOD and made me keen to learn about this sport more. I think FIA will make more money without politicians who are not being looked because there is so much drive being generated and people are moving to different places and political news not getting its first place and things are getting business oriented.

    This is relevently a new trend where it clearly shows there is a difference between FIA and the speaker who is not which is what I am seeing. So there is control which may be intentional.

    I think double game going with respects for all and I think everyone is respected still. We have to see what happens. I hardly have time to breathe regarding F1.

    1. Agree.
      I like the AJ Foyt attitude.
      “They’re coming to eat me and I’m coming to beat them and that’s all there is to it”

      1. playstation361
        17th February 2023, 2:12

        Just few weeks to press the restart button.

  8. I think it’s great that some drivers are speaking out against this attempt by the FIA to silence them. This policy is attracting a lot of negative attention to F1 and isn’t going over well with their new American viewers. Expect a swift turnaround. I highly doubt that the FIA is willing to die on that hill, regardless of the recent interest of the gulf states in F1 and their abhorrent human rights records. They’re not going to be able to purchase good will.

    1. @ryanoceros I agree

      I wonder if the head of FIA was not MBS, would they still be so adamant about this? They didn’t seem so draconian about the matter before MBS. How much is FIA willing to fight for this? Maybe Aramco (Saudi state oil group) has said something to FIA?

      “The gulf states in F1 and their abhorrent human rights records” is a subject I’m sure they would love to keep on the down low. Is this more related to FIA keeping their bedfellows happy, taking away the stage from the drivers and avoid the possible embarrassment of these topics being discussed and hurting their investors (bedfellows) bottom line and PR? I could see see some self interest in gagging the drivers to avoid this.

    2. This policy is attracting a lot of negative attention to F1

      Only from people who don’t seem to understand it.

  9. Is this more related to FIA keeping their bedfellows happy, taking away the stage from the drivers and avoid the possible embarrassment of these topics being discussed and hurting their investors (bedfellows) bottom line and PR?

    Liberty (FOM) chose to take F1 to the Middle East. And they keep choosing to do it more and more.
    The FIA aren’t getting much out of it at all – actually they’d get pretty much the same no matter where F1 went, and would likely prefer if they weren’t getting caught in the middle of all this nonsense.

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