F1: Lewis Hamilton intends to 'keep talking' despite new International Automobile Federation regulations

The seven Formula 1 world championship titles did not alter the convictions of Lewis Hamilton

F1: Lewis Hamilton intends to 'keep talking' despite new International Automobile Federation regulations

The seven Formula 1 world championship titles did not alter the convictions of Lewis Hamilton. At 38, as he begins his 17th season in the motorsport elite, the British driver does not intend to ask permission before speaking. And this even if, since last December and an update of its international sporting code, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) now requires prior written authorization from drivers before making "political, religious and personal statements or comments during race weekends.

On Wednesday February 15, during the presentation of the new single-seater of the Mercedes team for the 2023 season, which begins at the beginning of March in Bahrain, Hamilton affirmed that he would continue to use his notoriety to promote the causes which are close to his heart, which include social justice and the fight against racism, human rights and the protection of the LBGTQ community.

"Nothing will stop me from talking about the things I'm passionate about and the issues that arise," Hamilton said. The sports world has a responsibility, again and again, to speak out to raise awareness about important issues, especially when we travel to all these different places, so nothing changes. »

Asked if he was prepared to be penalized by the FIA ​​for breaking the new rule, Hamilton replied that it would be "stupid to say [he] would like to take additional penalty points". , but he firmly maintained his position: “I will continue to speak on my side. We still have this platform. There are many topics that we need to address. »

Major support from Black Live Matters

The first black sportsman to win in F1 in 2008, Lewis Hamilton remains the only one to drive at the highest level of motorsport. He was one of the major supporters of the Black Live Matters movement, but his commitment is broader. The Brit does not hesitate to speak at Grands Prix taking place in countries where human rights are not always respected, which in the future could be called into question by the new point of view. FIA regulations.

In 2021, he had, for example, defended the presence on his helmet of a rainbow flag, a sign of his support for the LGBTQ cause, and the inscription "We Stand Together" (we are united) during Grand Prix of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. “We are aware that there are problems where we are going. Qatar seems to be considered one of the worst [countries in terms of non-respect of human rights] in this part of the world, he explained in Doha. Athletes have a duty to raise public awareness of these issues. »

The circuit's most emblematic driver is not alone in defending this right to free speech. On Wednesday, he received support from his British teammate George Russell, director of the Association of Grand Prix Drivers. "We're not going to limit our opinions or our thoughts because of some stupid rulebook. We are all here to express ourselves freely and share our opinions, whatever they may be. (…) Naturally, we are seeking clarification [from the FIA] and I hope that this will all be resolved quickly,” said the 25-year-old driver.

Tensions between the FIA ​​and Formula One

This controversy comes in a context of tensions between the FIA ​​and Formula One, the company which manages the rights of the discipline, but also the teams of the circuit. Since the election, in December 2021, of the new president, the Dubaiot Mohammed Ben Sulayem, relations have been less fluid than with his predecessor, the Frenchman Jean Todt, who was more consensual.

In an interview with the Guardian, Stefano Domenicali, managing director of Formula One, also criticized the position of the FIA: “We have twenty drivers, ten teams and lots of sponsors. I can't say one is right, the other is wrong, but it's fair, if necessary, to give them space to discuss their opinions openly. The Italian insisted: “F1 will never gag anyone. I think the FIA ​​will clarify what has been said. I'm sure the FIA ​​will share the same view as F1. »

At the beginning of the year, Ben Sulayem publicly commented on a report from Bloomberg which mentioned an offer to buy F1 by a sovereign wealth fund from Saudi Arabia, deeming the announced price “too high. “A clumsiness, even a fault, since Formula One is listed on the stock market and the FIA ​​holds 1%.

The new strongman of the FIA ​​had also alienated the teams by his eagerness to welcome newcomers to F1: the project of the American team Andretti and the American manufacturer General Motors, via the Cadillac brand. The American group Liberty Media, owner of Formula One, had replied: “The circumstances in which the FIA ​​could have a role in a change of ownership of F1 are very limited. The remarks made by the President of the FIA ​​(…) exceed the limits of the powers of the FIA ​​and of its contractual rights. »

President Ben Sulayem recently sent a letter to the teams to announce his intention to distance himself from F1. A decision that would have been "taken a long time ago", according to an FIA spokesperson interviewed by AFP, but which occurs at the right time to ease these tensions.