Hamilton says FIA rule curbing “freedom of speech” won’t stop him speaking out

2023 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton says the FIA’s new restrictions on how drivers may express themselves will not stop him from speaking out on issues he cares about.

As RaceFans revealed in December the FIA added new clauses to its International Sporting Code, the rules which govern all series it runs, restricting what statements competitors may make.

The revised rules forbid “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, unless previously approved in writing by the FIA for International Competitions, or by the relevant ASN for National Competitions within their jurisdiction”.

Hamilton has been one of the most outspoken drivers in F1 and used his status to advance a number of causes. He is most vocal on the subject of diversity and racism, and has previously worn T-shirts at races showing his support for Black Lives Matter.

He said he wasn’t surprised by the FIA’s clampdown but insisted it won’t change how he conducts himself.

“I wasn’t really watching the news over the winter, but I heard it,” he told media including RaceFans after the launch of Mercedes’ new W14 today. “It doesn’t surprise me.

“But nothing will stop me from speaking on the things that I’m passionate about and issues that there are. I feel the sport does have a responsibility still, always, to speak out on things, to create awareness and on important topics particularly as we’re travelling to all these different places. And so nothing changes for me.”

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The FIA has not indicated what penalties drivers may face if they are found to have transgressed the new rules. Hamilton admitted it is not clear what the consequences might be.

2023 Mercedes W14 - Lewis Hamilton colours
Gallery: Mercedes present new W14 F1 car for 2023 season
“I think it would be silly to say that I would want to get penalty points for speaking out on things,” Hamilton said. “But as I said to you, I’m still going to be speaking my mind and as we still have this platform, there’s still a lot of things that we need to tackle.”

Other drivers including Max Verstappen, Kevin Magnussen and Valtteri Bottas have already criticised the FIA’s clampdown on their freedom to express themselves and urged the governing body to address their concerns over the new rule. The pressure on the FIA to shift its stance increased last week when Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said the series will not “put a gag” on drivers and he expects the FIA to clarify its new regulation.

Hamilton says F1 drivers share similar views on the FIA’s stance and is pleased Domenicali has spoken out against it.

“The support of Stefano I think has been amazing. I think all the drivers have been very much aligned on freedom of speech and I think we are all aligned on that.”

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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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26 comments on “Hamilton says FIA rule curbing “freedom of speech” won’t stop him speaking out”

    1. I expected no less from Hamilton. I imagine this is a great opportunity to be a martyr for the cause.

      Honestly, I’d be full of admiration instead of skepticism if the causes supported were causes that had little to no advocates. But Hamilton always chooses the trendiest causes so it comes across as self-serving.

      You could predict with some accuracy what would be on Hamilton’s shirt based upon was cause was trending on twitter, and almost always these were American issues and almost exclusively regarding police brutality on the black community.

      Now, that’s not a bad cause. But it’s one that Americans have taken on very actively. The athletes in the U.S. initiated the activism on this and the cause is very well-funded and represented. So why the hell is Lewis Hamilton bringing this uniquely American problem to the world stage in F1? I suggest because it’s trendy.

      If Lewis were out there speaking out against the Rohingya massacre in Myanmar, the continuous genocide in Darfur, the Yazidi genocide in Iraq and Syria, or the concentration camps in North Korea. I bet most people reading this didn’t know at least one of those genocides was still ongoing. Because it’s not in the news anymore. It’s not trendy. But these are the causes that need the Lewis Hamiltons of the world. Not the first world problems of America.

  1. Wait, freedom of speech applies to British subjects?

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      15th February 2023, 13:54

      Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998:

      Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

      1. Thanks, I must have missed that the ‘reform’ efforts of HMG were apparently quietly abandoned a few PMs ago.

    2. It’s freedom of speech till someone is concerned, so the answer is no.

  2. Its interesting how, when Lewis first started speaking out, many fans said “no politics in sport”, “shut up and drive” etc. But now that the FIA is putting some rules in place, everyone’s talking about freedom of speech and restricting drivers. The mob is fickle indeed.

    1. The shouty types have had to confront their deepest fear: do they enjoy complaining more about Lewis or the FIA? The mob is best observed from a distance for it to be entertaining :D

  3. I think the main issue here isn’t so much preventing driver’s ability to have “freedom of speech”. The drivers have all the freedom to do as they wish on their personal time. When the drivers are working on the job they are representatives/ambassadors of F1 and the teams, sponsors, etc. Therefor what they say and do on the job is reflected on those attached to them in the sport. Hence why many of us working are required or are expected to be working “professionals” while on the job for whomever we work for as companies/organizations put importance on reputations and being professionals (aka we are careful about what we say and how we act). I think drivers (or even others) imposing personal agendas that are outside of the organization involvement/scope is not fair to those that work with them, under them or above them. What one representative says is usually attached to the entire organization they belong to, and folks think that is the stance of the entire organization and those in it. That can have negative impacts on the sport or organization/company that impacts others within it as well. I think the FIA here is trying to distill some level of decorum and requiring drivers to be more professional at racing events. It’s not like the FIA is going to go after drivers from speaking out on topics on personal time. I think the FIA just doesn’t want the races to become a forum for non-racing topics outside of F1s mission becoming more green. Like most stories, this is being made of a mountain out of a mole hill.

  4. I think the FIA just doesn’t want the races to become a forum for non-racing topics outside of F1s mission becoming more green. Like most stories, this is being made of a mountain out of a mole hill

    I think certain groups outside of F1 have put pressure on members of the FIA to restrict what the drivers say.
    Like it or not, the drivers individually and collectively have a public platform arising from the fame wagon that is part of driving a very fast car.

    Certain countries have a record of humans rights that doesn’t bear scrutiny, and close scrutiny has them rushing for some kind of defence.
    What the drivers have been saying encourages close scrutiny.

  5. Translated as “I will continue to parrot establishment funded narratives as I am at the age where I think I know some things but in reality am a misinformed fool & haven’t actually a clue about the origins or funding regarding said talking points AND am too lazy to actually discover the truth for myself so I will continue to bleat with the rest of the herd”.

  6. Can’t wait to see drivers being punished for breaching the ISC.
    Bring. It. On.

  7. I think they should be punished if they cause any degree of polarising fans through political comment made during an
    F1 event. Outside of F1 events they should be free to speak their minds with a full understanding that their comments and views are not necessarily representative of FI etc, etc,

  8. I’m curious if the FIA’s ISC ruling doesn’t just apply to drivers, but all team members. Otherwise you’d have a situation where a team principal was free to speak their mind at an FIA press conference, but not the drivers.

    If the quoted text is the entire ruling then that seems incredibly vague. The act of wearing of a chain with a crucifix on it, or thanking god during a press conference could be considered making a religious statement.

    For some reason I’m reminded of Ayrton Senna, which I seem to recall was quite a religious person. I don’t think he’d be too keen on the new rules.

    1. I’m curious if the FIA’s ISC ruling doesn’t just apply to drivers, but all team members.

      The ISC applies to all competitors and officials in FIA sanctioned or affiliated competition and/or events. Team members are competitors.

      The practicing of religion is not an issue here – however, misuse of the FIA’s media to actively promote it would be.
      I’m sure you can distinguish between the two.

    2. I find your avatar thingy offensive.

  9. What is sad and disappointing is that many that have freedom of expression and freedom of speech are actually agreeing with the FIA on restricting drivers from those very same freedoms that they possess. And these same people are making up all kinds of reasons as to why this is right…

    1. That’s because it’s not a restriction of any freedoms, Wayne.
      F1 (and also every other FIA sports/media event) is a workplace, and it’s their duty to be respectful to everyone who works within it, makes it possible and supports it – regardless of who they are, where they live, or what they believe.

      I’d love to know what you talk about with your customers at work…

      1. We talk politics, sports, weather the actual work at hand etc. How ever my workplace is not on international tv. My company does not physically go into countries where they use me as an employee to sell their product. My company does not use my international status or popularity to sell their product. What we are speaking about is no ordinary company or business. Hence we cannot have ordinary rules and laws as a normal company. Even actors at their awards etc express their opinion on the unfairness in the industry they belong to using the platform provided by the very company (s) that employ them.

  10. You have customers and business partners, FIA has customers and business partners. 100% comparable.
    You don’t deliberately do or say anything that will knowingly or unknowingly offend them, as it would potentially harm the company’s reputation and ability to do business. 100% comparable there too.
    You don’t set out to disobey the wishes of the business, nor to breach the company’s code of conduct. Also 100% comparable.
    If you did, you’d expect there to be consequences. You could even have your employment terminated.
    Same goes for the FIA’s business and the people who publicly represent it.

    Actors can criticise their industry because it isn’t owned and run by one company. There is no code of conduct to agree or answer to.
    F1, however, is a business owned and run by one company, with a clear code of conduct for all participants within it.
    An industry (movie/TV/etc) and a business (FIA) is not a direct comparison.

  11. So “nothing will stop” him, except if there are actual consequences i.e. penalty points :D

    1. Yeah good one. At least he is saying ” I ”
      It is all about him in my opinion, and that’s ok.
      The others are just saying ” we ” to mindlessly tag along.

  12. Apart from points how about the brand new shiny market?
    Can’t see him wearing a T shirt with one of Lincoln’s quotes about matters racial while standing atop the podium beseeching the president “come on Mr President, tear down those memorials”.

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