Formula 1: FIA detailed “driver’s muzzle”

As many drivers and team bosses had hoped, the FIA ​​has clarified its policy on political and personal statements by Formula 1 drivers and what is and is not tolerated at Grand Prix events.

In a document distributed to teams on Friday entitled “Guidance on the Principle of Neutrality (Article 12.2.1.n of the ISC)”, the world governing body explained how the update to the long-standing International Sport Code published in late 2022 in the practice will work.

In it, the FIA ​​emphasizes that drivers are free to express their own beliefs – but only at certain times and under certain circumstances.

However, for the time during the sporting competition, i.e. on the track, on the podium and in the driver parade, you must obtain written permission in advance to discuss certain topics.

In detail, it states that drivers are free “to express their views on political, religious or personal matters before, during and after the international competition in their own area and outside of the international competition”, such as on social media and during media interviews.

This also includes the FIA ​​​​press conferences, but such statements are explicitly only permitted there in response to direct questions from accredited journalists.

What is political, religious and personal?

Furthermore, participants are not permitted to make political, religious and/or personal statements that violate the general principle of neutrality during the drivers’ parade, the playing of the national anthem, the pre-season and post-season group photos and on the podium.

The FIA ​​has also issued guidance on what is meant by ‘political’, ‘religious’ and ‘personal’ expressions, with Formula 1 race stewards making a case-by-case determination as to whether a rule has been broken.

An example of a political statement that violates the rules would be a driver making “unauthorized statements or comments about any local, regional or national government or its departments or agencies”.

The umbrella organization lists “everything that is critical or hostile to the religious or spiritual beliefs of others” as a rule violation in relation to religious statements. This excludes “private, non-provocative religious gestures, such as pointing to heaven or crossing oneself.”

In the case of personal statements, the main concern is that the competitors “do not use events as a platform for personal statements of any kind and thus violate the general principle of neutrality”.

Permission to make a statement that would breach Article 12.2.1.n must be requested by Riders “at least four weeks before the event in question”. “Late applications will only be considered by the FIA ​​in exceptional cases”, with each permit granted only being valid for one Formula 1 event.

Play it safe with permission

It can be assumed that there will be a gray area when it comes to driver’s helmets. Of course, they are very visible on the race track and can be compared to the captain’s armbands in football. A rainbow-colored “OneLove” armband caused a stir during the last World Cup in Qatar.

The wearing of this bandage was stopped by FIFA at the time. She explained that otherwise sporting sanctions such as a yellow card would be imposed.

For example, should Lewis Hamilton wish to wear a rainbow colored helmet again at the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix, he would be well advised to obtain prior approval as he would otherwise risk violating Article 12.2.1.n and the neutrality requirement.

An FIA spokesman said: “A guide for participants in international competitions has been issued outlining the scope of the updates made to the FIA’s International Sporting Code in December,” an FIA spokesman said.

“The updates cement the FIA’s long-standing commitment to protecting the neutrality of motorsport and in particular will ensure neutrality during key moments of all motorsport competitions, such as podiums, anthems and official activities ‘on the pitch’.”

“No additional restrictions will be imposed on individuals expressing their opinion outside of these times,” affirms the FIA ​​official.

“The guide does not change article 12.2.1.n of the International Sport Codex. It was necessary to produce a separate guide to facilitate the implementation of the principles of neutrality in the many different motorsport disciplines.”