In a document distributed to the teams on Friday, entitled “Guide to the principle of neutrality (article 12.2.1.n of the CSI)”, the FIA explained how the update made to the International Sporting Code published at the end of 2022 will work in practice regarding the pilots’ personal statements on various subjects.
In the document, a copy of which has been viewed by Motorsport.com, the FIA reiterates that drivers will be free to express their beliefs and ideals, but only at certain times and circumstances. However, the FIA reiterates that drivers will still have to ask for permission to discuss certain topics.
The FIA explained that drivers will be free to “express their views on any political, religious or personal matter before, during and after the International Competition, in their space and outside the scope of the International Competition”, such as on social media and during media interviews, including FIA press conferences.
But the clarification of article 12.2.1.n goes on to state that, in addition to not making particular statements during the drivers’ parade, the national anthem ceremonies, the group photos of the drivers before and after the season and the podium (including therefore visual gestures, such as wearing a certain item of clothing), “participants are not allowed to make political, religious and/or personal statements in violation of the general principle of neutrality during FIA press conferences (except in response to questions directed by accredited journalists)”.
The FIA has also issued guidance on what is meant by “political”, “religious” or “personal” expressions, with regards to Article 12.2.1.n.
The article establishes that it will be considered a violation of the regulation if: “The dissemination and display of political, religious and personal statements or comments violate in particular the general principle of neutrality promoted by the FIA in its Statute, unless it has been previously approved in writing by the FIA for international competitions, or by the competent ASN for national competitions within their jurisdiction”.
The stewards will decide whether there has been a violation during the race weekend.
The FIA’s clarification says an example of a policy statement that violates the rules is a driver not asking for permission to discuss “if he makes unapproved statements or comments” concerning “any local, regional or national government or any department thereof , office or function”.
Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Regarding religious matters, according to the FIA, an example of a rule violation could be “anything critical or hostile to the religious or spiritual beliefs of others”. The Federation also clarified that “private and non-provocative religious gestures, such as pointing to the sky or making the sign of the cross, are not considered prohibited religious statements”.
Competitors shall not use the events as a platform to share personal statements of any kind in breach of the general principle of neutrality”, which pertains to Article 2 of the FIA Statutes (in force since 8 May 1970) and is – according to the FIA - the main concern of the efforts made to clarify what drivers can and cannot say at F1 events.
FIA guidance states that drivers requesting permission to make a statement which would otherwise infringe Article 12.2.1.n will need to do so “at least four weeks before the event in question” and says “late requests will be taken considered by the FIA on an exceptional basis only”, with any permit granted covering only one F1 event.
Lewis Hamilton on the podium during the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix
Photo by: Mark Sutton
According to Motorsport.com, there is a gray area when it comes to driver helmets, which are naturally highly visible during track action and can be compared to the various European nations that have wanted their football team captains to wore a rainbow “OneLove” headband at the recent World Cup in Qatar.
FIFA prevented this from happening, stating that sporadic penalties such as a yellow card would be imposed in the event of a violation.
Motorsport.com asked if, for example, Lewis Hamilton wanted to wear a rainbow-livered helmet again at the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix and would apparently be advised to seek permission to do so or risk violating the rules. article 12.2.1.n otherwise.
Regarding the guidance given to the teams, an FIA spokesperson said: “A guidance note has been issued for participants in international races outlining the updates made to the FIA’s International Sporting Code in December.”
“The updates reinforce the FIA’s long-standing commitment to protecting the neutrality of motor sport and will notably ensure neutrality during key moments in all motorsport competitions, such as podiums, national anthems and official ‘on-the-field’ activities. game'”.
“The guidance note does not change Article 12.2.1.n of the FIA International Sporting Code. It was necessary to provide a separate guidance document to facilitate the implementation of the principles of neutrality in the different motorsport disciplines.”
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