The FIA's decision to silence Formula 1 drivers' speech hasn't been received well by the very people it's intended to censor. Shocker. Last December, the federation that oversees F1 updated its International Sporting Code to clamp down on political, religious, and personal statements—something that's being seen as a sort of gag order on the F1 paddock. Set to go into effect at the beginning of the 2023 racing season, drivers are getting more and more vocal about this issue, including current world champion Max Verstappen, and Wednesday, seven-time champ Lewis Hamilton.
Speaking to the media at the reveal of the Mercedes W14 F1 car, Hamilton shared his thoughts on the new regulation for the first time since it was announced.
“It doesn’t surprise me, but nothing will stop me from speaking on the things that I feel that I’m passionate about and issues that there are,” said Hamilton, according to Autosport.
As the only Black F1 driver, Hamilton has been proudly outspoken about issues that he identifies with. Whether it's racism, poverty, or police brutality, the British athlete has used his platform to bring those issues to light. And he's not alone. Four-time F1 champ Sebastian Vettel has also been extremely vocal about those issues, especially LGBTQ+ and environmental rights.
Most recently, Red Bull driver and two-time champ Verstappen also spoke against the new rules, saying that he "didn't think it was necessary" and that orders that "ensure people are not allowed to talk anymore" don't lead to anything good.
Verstappen's boss, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, also backed him up: “So we don't want a load of robots that are without opinion going racing, but like with all these things, there just has to be a sensible balance.”
Regardless of who shares Hamilton's opinion, it appears he's not going to change how he goes about things. If anything, he might deal with this new regulation the same way he dealt with the body jewelry regulation: ignoring it.
“I feel the sport does have a responsibility still, always, to speak out on things and create awareness on important topics, particularly as we’re traveling to all these different places. So, nothing changes for me.
“But as I said to you, I’m still going to be speaking my mind. We still have this platform, there are still a lot of things that we need to tackle," added Hamilton.
“The support of Stefano [Domenicali] I think has been amazing. I think all the drivers have been very much aligned on freedom of speech. We’re all aligned on that.”
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