FIA clamps down on Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel’s activism

Retired four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel was seen as a hero by many, as he used his voice to support several campaigns and communities.

Following an update to the FIA’s International Sporting Code (ISC), drivers in all FIA championships will officially be banned from making “political statements”, unless they’ve been granted permission from the governing body.

The update comes just a couple of days after the conclusion of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which was held in Qatar, a country that was massively criticised for being given the rights to host the event due to their abysmal human rights record.

The FIA has actually been praised in the past for giving Formula 1 drivers, in particular, freedom to make “political statements”, usually in regard to climate change and the LGBTQ community.

Lewis Hamilton famously wore a stunning LGBTQ-themed helmet when racing in the Middle East over the last couple of years, with same-sex marriage continuing to be illegal in the majority of the area.

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Sebastian Vettel as well, was a committed supporter of several campaigns and communities and was also the first to take the knee alongside Hamilton in support of ‘Black Lives Matter’, a moment that was truly symbolic for F1.

This ban is largely a concerning one, with a general sense being that drivers have had a sense of their freedom of speech taken from them, should they listen.

In the update to the ISC, 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 previously approved in writing by the FIA for International Competitions, or by the relevant ASN for National Competitions within their jurisdiction.”

Concerningly, “failure to comply with the instructions of the FIA regarding the appointment and participation of persons during official ceremonies at any Competition counting towards a FIA Championship” will be seen as a breach of the FIA’s regulations.

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The update somewhat marks a sad day for the world of motorsport, with F1 drivers in particular having done so much to give so many communities and campaigns the platform and recognition that they truly deserve.

Of course, it remains to be seen how strict the FIA will be over what they will, and won’t give permission too, with the hope being that they accept anything anywhere in the world.

Should this happen, then they will avoid falling down the toxic path that has been taken by football’s governing body, who banned teams from wearing an armband in support of the LGBTQ community.

Interestingly, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem contrasted Hamilton’s and Vettel’s willingness to speak out and use their platform to considerably older drivers.

He referred to the likes of Alain Prost and Niki Lauda as having “only cared about driving”.

“Now, Vettel drives a rainbow bicycle, Lewis [Hamilton] is passionate about human rights and [Lando] Norris addresses mental health,” said Ben Sulayem.

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“Everybody has the right to think. To me, it is about deciding whether we should impose our beliefs [sic] in something over the sport all the time.”

To his credit, Ben Sulayem has expressed his intent on the FIA continuing to improve diversity and inclusion in motorsport, something which will hopefully continue heading into the new year.

The update to the ISC continued by saying that 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.”