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We won't gag drivers, vows Domenicali


F1 CEO, Stefano Domenicali has said that the sport will not attempt to stop drivers voicing their opinions.

His comments follow an update to the FIA's International Sporting Code (ISC), which bans drivers from making "political, religious or personal" statements or comments without first obtaining permission.

"F1 will never put a gag on anyone," he told The Guardian, his comments immediately taken up by much of the rest of the British media.

"Everyone wants to talk so to have the platform to say what they want in the right way the better it is," he added. "We have a huge opportunity because of the position of our sport which is more and more global, multicultural and multivalued.

"We are talking about twenty drivers, ten teams and many sponsors, they have different ideas, different views.

"I cannot say one is right, one is wrong," he continued, "but it is right, if needed, to give them a platform to discuss their opinions in an open way.

"We will not change that approach as a sport. That should be the line of our sport, to give everyone the chance to speak in the right way, not with aggressive tones or to offend but with respect."

Curiously, at a time of increasing tension between the sport's owners and its governing body - or at least its president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem - though we have had three livery reveals and one show car, almost every driver from the four teams, Haas, Red Bull, Williams and Alfa Romeo, has spoken out over the issue.

"We keep monitoring the situation," said Domenicali. "We keep the drivers informed, we meet with the Grand Prix Drivers’ Associations (GPDA) to discuss it.

"How we can allow the drivers to be open as human beings in our sport. Athletes can be very emotional and passionate about some things and they need to discuss that constructively with people they trust."

Domenicali believes that all parties should be talking in order to find an acceptable solution.

"I had a discussion with the drivers about this last year," he said. "About how F1 could be a platform, to have a spotlight on certain things we believe are right to talk about.

"F1 should help the drivers if they want to discuss certain subjects. It is important to have a very constructive dialogue. If this is not happening it can create either confusion or problems where there need not be problems."

Referring to the update to the ISC, he said: "We are talking about a regulation and the regulator is the FIA. I believe the FIA will clarify what has been stated, in terms of respecting certain places where you cannot do it. I am sure the FIA will share the same view as F1 but they are part of an Olympic federation so there are protocols to which they have to abide."

Domenicali's vow that drivers will not be gagged is somewhat ironic when one considers that the wife of his predecessor, Chase Carey, who remains Executive Chairman of the Formula One Group, deleted her Twitter account following a complaint from Lewis Hamilton in the summer of 2020.

F1 subsequently set up a diversity campaign to fund internships and apprenticeships for people from underrepresented groups - to which Carey donated $1m - just a few days after the launch of the We Race As One campaign, "a platform aimed at tackling the biggest issues facing our sport and global communities".

Over the course of the summer, a clearly emboldened Hamilton ramped-up the activism and in no time at all F1's powers that be had agreed to drivers displaying their feelings towards certain causes in the moments before the race, though when the Briton took his message on to the podium the FIA decided it was a step to far and quickly acted, insisting that politics - certainly in terms of T-Short slogans - had no place in official ceremonies.

As we have said before, while the drivers insist that that they want to be free to voice their opinions, what on earth makes them feel that race fans want to hear them.

Furthermore, taking this forward, there is the little matter of what opinion is acceptable.

During that crazy summer of 2020, as F1 struggled to be the only sport to put on a world championship show, the drivers were allowed to show their support for various causes during a special period ahead of the race. Many followed Hamilton's example in taking the knee, a symbolic gesture against racism originated by American football player Colin Kaepernick.

However, sections of the media were quick to seize upon those drivers that took the knee and those, that forever reason, opted not to.

Therefore a big question facing the sport is if drivers are free to speak their minds, is it a free for all or are certain subjects and causes taboo.

We have seen in Hollywood, the music industry and others that those that even hint at a conservative (small C) attitude in an increasingly liberal-dominated world are frowned upon, in some cases their careers effectively cancelled.

So, will freedom of expression be confined to those beliefs that fit the agenda, the current 'thing'.

Whilst we believe the unease over the 'gagging' being expressed by the drivers is merely part of the process as Liberty Media seeks to oust Mohammed Ben Sulayem, one has to wonder what many of the drivers actually want to speak out about.

Anyone who has watched the pre-event press conferences will be aware that for the most part their answers to questions are anodyne, and other than how great the circuit/fans/host country is, set-up/porpoising/rake and weather, look ill at ease when asked to venture outside their comfort zones.

Furthermore, with the likes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi pouring money into the F1 coffers will the sport want anyone saying anything that might cause problems?

Fact is, despite the drivers' protestations at their right to being able to say what they want, when they want, they gave up that right the first time they took the money and started adorning their overalls with sponsors logos, for it is the big corporations, be it industry, media or whatever, that call the shots and increasingly use the likes of sportsmen to be their spokespeople.


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1. Posted by kenji, 18/02/2023 1:52

"@Alvarezh3...Thank you for that. Sometimes it's hard to read the board sentiment but some posters are definitely readable. All good fun. Great site and great posters.....most of the time hahaha"

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2. Posted by alvarezh3, 14/02/2023 21:17

I confirmed with a "positive" that I had read your last post, someone gave a "negative" that eliminated my "positive".

So, yes, I am with you."

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3. Posted by kenji, 12/02/2023 2:28

"@ Alvarezh3..haha Mi espanol es muy malo. Yo hablo un pocquitito Esapanol. Christian Horner is, IMO, a polarising sorta guy. He can be infuriating sometimes and at other times he makes a lot of sense. On this issue he is correct. Thankfully we won't have to be subjected to the rantings of Vettel and his green 'Chicken lLttle' proclimations. Now that's a positive start to the new season."

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4. Posted by alvarezh3, 11/02/2023 20:01

"@ Kenji....wait a minute, your spanish is better than mine! :-)

I don't usually agree with C. Horner's views, but he has just made his thoughts on the matter openly known, google:

Christian Horner backs FIA ban on political statements- 'F1 a form of escapism'"

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5. Posted by kenji, 11/02/2023 12:45

"@ Alvarezh3.... 'estoy muy bien, gracias' With the internationality of F1 it is impossible to embrace all the political dysfunctions that echo around the world and which are coloured by so many conlicting viewpoints. The FIA should've stomped on these issues,like BLM et al, right from day 1. The fact that they were allowed has made it all the harder now. All that it has done is to give further succour to the cancel culture milieu where if you disagree with their outlandish claims you are 'cancelled', discarded like an old boot and thrown out in the trash. That is wrong and wrong again. I just fervently hope that the new rules are monitored seriously and action taken when and if they are transgressed....irrespective of who it is. "

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6. Posted by alvarezh3, 11/02/2023 4:25

"@ Kenji, hola amigo!

Although the Basques in Spain are noted for placing bombs to force Madrid into giving them independence, the Catalans are known to be even more into their sovereignty than the Basques, just that they don't use brutal tactics that attract international headlines. Having said that, imagine Alonso who is Catalan organizing a driver demonstration for the "liberation" of their land at Montmeló. What justifying explanation is going to give Domenicali if the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Madrid calls him for one? Doesn't Stefano realize that Liberty Media will become a co-sponsor of such an act? And furthermore, that he is also involving the FIA as it is the owner of the championship and the event's sanctioning body?

As you well point out, I also saw that Liberty Media will, in essence, become the judging institution who will choose what is considered an allowed demonstration or protest. I thought Liberty Media was an entertainment promotional corporation, not the provider of an international platform for demonstrations and protests of political and social causes that additionally organizes a Formula 1 race to attract a global audience, for, in essence, that's what L.M. will become. And to top it off, all financed and paid for by the patronage of the Formula One followers. How nice!

I wonder if L.M. going to permit a team driver with the proper F1 credentials, if, as being Muslim, he decides to organize a demonstration denouncing the treatment of his Yghur brothers. If allowed, Is Domenicali going to justify L.M. to the Chinese Government with democratic principles? I would like to see that! On the other hand, if not allowed, how is he going to justify a "BLM" demonstration? LOVELY!"

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7. Posted by kenji, 11/02/2023 2:09

"@ Alvarezh3...and the list just goes on and on. Well said. I don't quite know that what Dom is saying is in effect possible? He says that 'we'd never censor drivers opinions'. Can Liberty Media impose their interpretations of what is politically accepted by themselves and the audience? The fact that they rolled over in the past vis a vis the BLM fiasco was IMO only a tacit 'look at me' tactic. I still believe that it is the FIA who make the calls here....not Liberty and Dom is just seeking air time."

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8. Posted by alvarezh3, 10/02/2023 18:47

"Since Liberty Media has now allowed it's Formula one events to be a political platform for social and political demonstrations, we shall soon see the Catalans protest the Spanish government in Madrid at the Spanish GP. Marjorie Taylor Green and her followers walk around the paddock at the Miami GP wearing T-shirts with the following sign: Biden LIAR!

Offering such a democratic forum I guess L.M. will allow the Houthis voice their concerns at the Saudi GP or the Christians complain that they are prohibited from having a Church? How about the Uyghur Muslims at the Chinese GP? I guess they won't be gagged either, Right?

What next Dominically?"

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9. Posted by kenji, 09/02/2023 2:13

"I used to like Dom but he is now just a 'talking head' who makes predictive statements that are not only vacuous but devoid of any commonsense....drivers can still say whatever they want, just not during a race weekend when under the FIA flag. "

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10. Posted by jcr, 08/02/2023 13:22

"Stephano stating the company, as per Liberty."

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