The FIA has come under fire for a change to policies that will require drivers to request permission before making political statements.
An update to the International Sporting Code revealed the change, which will extend to all categories that are governed by the FIA, including Formula 1.
The FIA has 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,” unless otherwise approved.
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It is now considered a breach of the regulations if competitors fail to comply with instructions regarding appointment and participation in official FIA ceremonies.
The FIA reportedly made the change to draw itself in line with the Olympic Movement, described as a “concerted, organised, universal and permanent action” by the International Olympic Committee.
Despite the change, an FIA spokesperson said the governing body would continue to promote human rights issues, per the organisation’s statutes.
“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,” a spokesperson said.
“The FIA will focus on underrepresented groups in order to achieve a more balanced representation of gender and race and to create a more diverse and inclusive culture.”
The change to the sporting code has raised eyebrows given Formula 1 has taken a relatively lenient approach to its drivers’ political messaging in recent years.
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have been perhaps the most vocal of the 20 drivers on the grid.
Hamilton has been a proponent of the Black Lives Matter movement and attended protests in the United States.
Some drivers elected to take a knee while the FIA began its own ‘End Racism’ campaign as well as supporting LGBTQ+ and broader causes with its ‘We Race As One’ program.
The seven-time world champion has stood on the podium wearing apparel featuring slogans associated with Black Lives Matter.
At the Tuscan Grand Prix in Mugello, Hamilton wore a shirt that featured the words ‘Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor’ and ‘Say her name’.
Taylor was shot by police after attempting to serve a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation.
Her partner fired a gun at police who returned fire. Taylor succumbed to injuries sustained after being shot eight times.
Hamilton’s gesture prompted Formula 1 organizers to mandate only race suits could be worn on the podium.
Vettel, meanwhile, has been a vocal advocate for climate change awareness and ending Russia’s invasion of Ukraine among a raft of issues.
Exactly what the sporting code changes mean for those campaigning for their respective causes remains to be seen.
Another change to the sporting code has revised the definition of misconduct, which now includes prohibiting “the general use of language (written or verbal), gesture and/or sign that is offensive, insulting, coarse, rude or abusive and might reasonably be expected or be perceived to be coarse or rude or to cause offense, humiliation or to be inappropriate”.
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