Red Bull’s Verstappen, Horner Say F1’s Gag Rule Turns Racers Into ‘Robots’
Although Horner says “sports should never be used as a political tool,” he believes drivers have a voice that “shouldn’t be suppressed.”
Back in December, the FIA revealed its intentions to limit Formula 1 drivers' speech when it comes to personal statements. The move was largely viewed as a gag order from the Federation and was immediately condemned by the sports' most influential (and most popular) names: Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen and Christian Horner can add their names to that list now, with the duo sharing their thoughts on the matter over the weekend.
Two-time world champion Verstappen said he "didn't think it was necessary" for the FIA to establish such a rule. He went on to say that while some drivers are more outspoken than others, issuing such orders makes "sure that people aren't allowed to speak anymore."
“I think you first have to know that everyone is different,” the Dutchman told Sky Sports, per a Motorsport.com report. “Some people are a bit more outspoken than others.
"Normally I'm not that outspoken. First of all, it's difficult for a driver to fully focus on that. You really have to throw yourself into everything and have all the facts straight, but I don't think it's necessary.
"You ensure that people are not allowed to talk anymore. I think people should be allowed to. Like I said, some people will talk a little more, some a little less. I think it was a bit unnecessary," added Verstappen.
The rule was largely implemented after actions by Hamilton and Vettel made headlines over the 2020, 2021, and 2022 F1 seasons. Seven-time champion Hamilton—the only Black driver in F1—was outspoken about racial inequality, police brutality, as well as animal cruelty on the grid and on his social media channels. Four-time champion Vettel also caused a ruckus in Montreal over Canada's mining tar sands and joined Hamilton with pro-LGTBQ+ messaging on his helmet.
Red Bull Racing team principal Horner was a little more outspoken on the matter, going as far as claiming that drivers "do have a voice" and shouldn't be "robots" without an opinion.
“I think, first of all, sports should never be used as a political tool," Horner told Sky Sports, per a Motorsport.com report. "And I think that sport, in many ways, is there to obviously entertain but to also have an element of escapism within it.
“But certainly we at Red Bull have never constrained our drivers to not have the freedom of speech either, or the freedom of their opinions or the ability to speak their minds, because they do have a voice.
“I think it's a matter of finding a balance, and in the world that we live in today, everybody has a voice, and that shouldn't be suppressed. But of course, it does have to be done responsibly," added Horner.
“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.”
There's been unrest among the F1 trinity during the off-season, with the FIA, Liberty Media, and F1 teams/drivers somewhat unhappy with each others' decisions and comments. Whether it's the limitation of drivers' speech, the FIA stepping on Liberty Media's toes by commenting on financial matters, or FIA President Ben Sulayem's passive-aggressive management style, not all has been well.
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