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In full: The FIA's clarification on F1's political statement clampdown

The FIA has issued a clarification of its clampdown on political and personal statements made by Formula 1 drivers, explaining what is and is not allowed going forward.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1, celebrates on the podium with Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG F1

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

It is the latest development of a saga that began in late 2022 when an updated version of the FIA's International Sporting Code included a new Article 12.2.1.n.

This states that drivers will be in breach of the rules if they show "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".

The change provoked much consternation among the drivers, who in many cases have used their massive platforms to champion various non-motorsport-related issues.

Most famously, Lewis Hamilton wore a T-shirt on the podium of the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix that stated: 'Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor'.

Under the new Article 12.2.1.n and the guidance issued to F1 teams on Friday, to do a similar move again Hamilton would be required to seek permission from the FIA to avoid a potential rules breach.

The drivers have generally been united in condemning the ISC change, with Hamilton saying "nothing will stop me in speaking on the things that I feel that I'm passionate about and issues that there are".

Max Verstappen, who was among those who refused to take a knee alongside Hamilton during the Mercedes driver's protest against global racial inequality in 2020 and 2021, said that "you are making sure people are not allowed to speak and I think we should be allowed".

The full 'Guidance on the Principle of Neutrality' document can be read in full below:

Guidance on the Principle of Neutrality (Article 12.2.1.n of the ISC) 

For over half a century (since 8 May 1970 – Article 2 of the FIA Statutes), the FIA has maintained the principle of neutrality as one of its guiding values. Like the International Olympic Committee and many other sport governing bodies, this principle is reflected in its core rules (Article 1.2 of the FIA Statutes), which sets out the FIA’s commitment not to discriminate on account of race, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin, language, religion, philosophical or political opinion, family situation, or disability. 

Article 12.2.1.n has been included in the FIA International Sporting Code (ISC) to cement the FIA’s longstanding commitment to protecting motor sport’s neutrality. This provision makes the following a breach of the rule: 

“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” 

This note is intended to provide guidance to drivers and other participants (officials, teams, competitors, etc.) on the implementation of this principle during International Competitions.  

Why does this principle exist and what does it aim to achieve? 

The participants in International Competitions are part of a global community with different views, lifestyles and values. To ensure respect for this diversity, it is fundamental that motor sport remains neutral and thus separate from and free of political, religious, or personal interference.  

The focus at any International Competition must remain on motor sport and on the performances of teams and drivers. It should not be used as a platform for individual advocacy. 

This principle also aims to prevent participants from being placed in a position where they may be forced to take a public position on a particular domestic or international issue when they would prefer not to do so.  

Can participants express their own views?  

Yes. Participants can express their views on any political, religious or personal matter before, during and after the International Competition, in their own space, and outside the scope of the International Competition, for example:  

- through their social media; or 

- during interviews with accredited media (such as any TV or print media interviews, 

- during the FIA press conference, only in response to direct questions from accredited journalists.  

In addition, as explained below, on an exceptional and case-by-case basis, the FIA may authorise a participant to make a statement at an International Competition that would otherwise be prohibited by Article 12.2.1.n. 

When expressing their views, participants are expected to respect applicable laws, the FIA’s values, and all other participants. Any behaviour and/or expression that constitutes or signals discrimination, hatred, hostility, or the potential for violence is contrary to the FIA’s values and will not be tolerated. 

When does Article 12.2.1.n apply?  

Participants are not permitted to make political, religious and/or personal statements in violation of the general principle of neutrality during: 

- FIA press conferences (except in response to direct questions from accredited journalists); 

- activities on the track (Course) area or equivalent (e.g., during the Drivers Parade and the national anthem); or 

- pre-race / post-race procedures or equivalent (e.g., the podium ceremony, in the cool down room, or at the start- and end-of-season group photos) 

What constitutes “political”, “religious” or “personal”? 

It is the responsibility of the Stewards to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a statement or comment – whether in the form of an image, symbol, gesture, words, or actions – is in breach of Article 12.2.1.n of the ISC. To aid the Stewards in making such determinations, the FIA has prepared a nonexhaustive list of potential scenarios that could be prohibited under Article 12.2.1.n. However, this list is intended to be illustrative only, and Stewards will carefully assess the specific circumstances of each potential contravention when determining whether a breach of the rules has occurred. 

Illustrative examples 

It is likely that a participant has breached the ISC under Article 12.2.1.n if they make any unapproved statements or comments – whether in the form of an image, symbol, gesture, words, or actions – related to the following:  

Political: 

- Any politically-associated or politically-sensitive person(s) living or dead (unless part of the official competition name). 

- Any local, regional, national, or international political party/ organisation/group. 

- Any local, regional, or national government or any of its departments, offices or functions. 

- Any function or branch of government (e.g., any statement or comment regarding the police or military). 

- Any reference (whether expressed or implied) to separatist movements (e.g., the display of a flag or symbol associated with an independence movement). 

- Any organisation whose aims or actions: (i) conflict with the FIA’s values or Diversity and Inclusion mission; and/or (ii) include hostility, prejudice, or unlawful discrimination on the grounds set out in Article 1.2 of the FIA Statutes. 

- Any reference to any totalitarian regime that justified mass killing (e.g., pro-Nazi chants). 

- Any specific political act/ event. 

- Any military conflict or political dispute between nations, regions, religions, or communities. 

- Any specific ethnic or indigenous communities, or perceived discrimination by one community against another. 

Religious: 

- A religion, spiritual practice, or related significant figure, except as indicated below. 

-Anything critical of or hostile to others’ religious or spiritual beliefs. 

N.B.: 

- Private, non-proselytising religious gestures, such as pointing to the sky or crossing oneself, shall not be considered prohibited religious statements. 

- Article 12.2.1.n will not be used to sanction individuals who display religious symbols or wear prescribed religious clothing/ornaments, unless they include prohibited statements or comments of the kind mentioned above.  

Personal: 

- Any circumstance personal to the participant. Competitors must not use events as a platform to share personal statements of any kind in violation of the general principle of neutrality.  

Seeking approval under Article 12.2.1.n of the ISC 

• On an exceptional and case-by-case basis, the FIA may authorise a participant to make a statement at an International Competition that would otherwise be prohibited by Article 12.2.1.n. 

• Anyone seeking the permission of the FIA as per Article 12.2.1.n. of the ISC must submit a written request to the FIA, providing reason(s) why such permission should be granted. 

• Such request must be received at least four weeks before the event concerned. Late requests will only be considered by the FIA on an exceptional basis. 

• Please be advised that: 

- approval, if granted, shall only last for the duration of a specified race/event, after which it will automatically expire; and 

- there shall be no right of appeal against the FIA’s decision to approve or reject Article 12.2.1.n request. 

• If the participant wants to make the statement or comment at a National Competition, they should seek the permission of the relevant ASN. 

What happens if a participant does not comply with Article 12.2.1.n?  

Anyone who is aware of a potential breach of Article 12.2.1.n should notify the Race Director (if appointed) or otherwise the Clerk of the Course. They in turn may report the matter to the Stewards. Where breach of Article 12.2.1.n is established, the Stewards may impose any of the penalties listed under Article 12.4.1 of the ISC. 

Alleged violations of the ethical principles contained in the FIA regulations (e.g., Article 3.1 of the FIA Code of Ethics, which provides that “the FIA Parties and Third Parties shall work to maintain harmonious relations with national authorities, in accordance with the principle of universality and of political neutrality of the FIA”) may also be reported through the FIA Ethics and Compliance Hotline (available at http://www.fia-ethicsline.com/). All reports will be duly assessed, and any wrongdoing will be addressed in accordance with FIA regulations.   

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