Stefano Domenicali has insisted that Formula 1 drivers will be given a platform to express their opinions freely but they will not be allowed to be political and must respect the sport’s partners. Circumstances are likely to affect Lewis Hamilton with the seven-time world champion regularly using his status in the sport to campaign against human rights abuses in host countries.
FIA president Mohamed Ben Sulayem recently announced that drivers will no longer be able to use the sport’s platform to make parking for their “personal agenda”. Many within Formula One responded to his statement as it was up to Liberty Media’s commercial rights holders to decide, with comments that went beyond the 61-year-old’s duties.
Since then, Bin Sulayem has taken on a more conservative role in Formula 1 management, but the problem still prevails with Alex Albon among those involved who will not be able to speak out. Hamilton is another person who would like to be affected if the referee stayed with the 38-year-old who often used his voice to promote issues of racial inequality and LGBTQ+ rights on previous Grand Prix weekends.
Now, Formula 1 CEO Domenicali has stressed that drivers will have a platform to share their opinions but will not be allowed to become political or be seen as disrespectful to the sport’s partners. The decision may not be universally popular within the ring with the human rights record of several host countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Hungary questionable.
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Domenicali told Sky Sports: “We’ve been with WeRaceAsOne to create discussion using our platform in the right way. I don’t think [it is about] Prevent the driver from communicating with the community – it’s a matter of respect.
“What I don’t like is when you want to say something to attack someone else, that’s wrong. But there’s also respect for the partners you work with. You have to be balanced.
“Nobody would put any bar on that unless you were going to be political, because we are in a sporting dimension, but to highlight the interest around certain topics that are at the center of the debate today, that wouldn’t be a problem in my opinion and I’m sure the FIA shares that view.
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“I would say there will be no change in what has been done in F1, which gives us the opportunity to talk about something more than the sport in the right way. There are places you can do it, but there is respect for your partners.”
It remains to be seen how the issue will play out in practice, but Formula 1 fans won’t be waiting long with the season starting in just three weeks in Bahrain.
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