Formula 1 'will never gag anyone', says chief executive Stefano Domenicali in response to row over updated FIA code
The FIA has been criticised for inserting a clause in its code banning drivers from making "political, religious and personal statements"; Alex Albon previously told Sky Sports News that drivers were "confused" and "concerned"
Last Updated: 08/02/23 8:18am
Formula 1 "will never put a gag on anyone", the sport's CEO Stefano Domenicali has said in response to pre-season controversy between the FIA and drivers.
The FIA updated its sporting code for 2023, inserting a clause that banned drivers from making "political, religious and personal statements" without prior approval from the sport's governing body.
The move has been condemned by rights groups and criticised by drivers, who have spoken of their unhappiness and uncertainty.
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Chief executive Domenicali has now responded to the criticism from drivers, including Alex Albon, telling the Guardian that he expects the FIA to clarify its position.
"F1 will never put a gag on anyone," he said.
"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 multi-valued.
"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."
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who is the president of the FIA, said in December that the updated code was "in alignment with the political neutrality of sport" and follows guidance in the International Olympic Committee's code of ethics.
The FIA was awarded full recognition status by the IOC in 2013.
"I believe the FIA will clarify what has been stated, in terms of respecting certain places where you cannot do it," Domenicali added.
"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."
Alex Albon and Max Verstappen voice concern over clampdown
Speaking to Sky Sports News, Alex Albon said drivers are "confused" and "concerned" about the change in regulation.
"Last year we were focused on the We Race As One initiative and I think we were doing a good job addressing certain issues around the world. We're using our profiles in the right way," he said.
"We were maybe going to some circuits that were slightly controversial, but we were handling it by addressing topics in these places that we felt needed awareness.
"It seems like we've slightly gone back on that now. There is most probably a different view between the drivers, FIA - but even also F1. We need to understand and have a talk about it."
His comments follow those from world champion Max Verstappen.
Verstappen said at Red Bull's launch he wasn't "outspoken" but nonetheless said the clampdown was unnecessary as drivers "should be allowed to speak".
"Everyone's different so people are more outspoken than others," said Verstappen. "I'm normally not that outspoken - first of all it's tough as a racing driver to be fully committed to that in terms of going into everything and making sure you know the facts.
"But I don't think [the rule] is necessary, because in a way you are making sure people are not allowed to speak and I think we should be allowed. It was probably a bit unnecessary."
AlphaTauri are the next team to launch the car, with Haas, Red Bull and Williams revealing their cars already. The full launch schedule is below:
F1 2023: When are the new cars being revealed?
|January 31||Haas (livery launch)||Online|
|February 3||Red Bull||New York|
|February 6||Williams (livery launch)||Online|
|February 7||Alfa Romeo||Zurich|
|February 11||AlphaTauri||New York|
|February 13||Aston Martin||Silverstone|