Formula 1 chairman and CEO Stefano Domenicali says the sport will back drivers wanting to use their platforms to make personal statements after a move from the FIA appeared to outlaw such actions.
Over the winter, the FIA updated the International Sporting Code (ISC) to prohibit “the general making and display of political, religious and personal statements or comments” without prior approval, allowing it to hand out sporting sanctions if it sees fit. The governing body defended the move, saying it was to fall in line with other members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), but after a number of drivers spoke out against the FIA’s changes, Domenicali said F1 wants to allow drivers to express themselves.
“F1 will never put a gag on anyone,” Domenicali told The Guardian. “Everyone wants to talk, so to have the platform to say what they want in the right way, the better it is. 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 20 drivers, 10 teams and many sponsors, they have different ideas, different views. I cannot say one is right, one is wrong 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.”
Despite the backlash against the FIA’s changes to the ISC, Domenicali believes the governing body is also not intending to prevent drivers from speaking about topics they feel are important.
“We are talking about a regulation and the regulator is the FIA,” he said. “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.”
The F1 CEO also said there are regular discussions held with the drivers to ensure they feel comfortable sharing their views, hinting the lack of such interaction with the FIA has led to the recent expressions of concern.
“We keep monitoring the situation,” he said. “We keep the drivers informed, we meet with the Grand Prix Drivers’ Associations 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.
“I had a discussion with the drivers about this last year; 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.”