The FIA created this monster and must now live with it.
The FIA included a brand-new regulation in the 2023 guide, effectively banning independently-led political activism within Formula 1. According to the new code, drivers must ask permission from the FIA before making "non-neutral political, religious or personal" statements.
As expected, the comments section was a dumpster fire of people who have a selective memory regarding the First Amendment. How wonderfully ironic that people feel free to say that professional athletes have no place in politics or social issues while stating their own political leaning by referring to the author of said piece as a "libtard."
Freedom of speech and expression is absolute in every free country worldwide. According to the State of World Liberty Index, the USA doesn't even make the top ten of the most free countries. You're more than welcome to express your feelings about this topic below, as this platform encourages commenting.
The main argument is that sport and politics shouldn't mix, and these guys should pitch up and race. "Celebrities shouldn't get involved in politics," they scream using all caps. What's our excuse for President Trump, then? What was his job before becoming 45?
In any other job, keeping mum is the golden standard. You can't pitch up at your cubicle in the bank and hang one of President Trump's new gaudy NFTs.
But these guys don't do a regular job. They're watched by billions of people across the globe, and the coverage goes much deeper than just the racing. It's also ironic that the FIA and Liberty Media created this monster, and now they're trying to muzzle it.
For the record, your faithful correspondent is a big free-speech fan. Even though I despise Donald Trump, I did not agree with Twitter banning him from the platform. The famous social media platform, now under the custodianship of Elon Musk, made a massive mistake by banning him. Was he inciting violence? Arguably. But that's for the DOJ to decide, not a bunch of self-appointed censors. Despite this revelation, I'm sure I'll be called a "libtard" below. Feel free to do so. Just know that I'll laugh at your inability to develop a new expression for lefties after 10 years. Put some more effort into insults, folks.
But back to F1 and Liberty Media. The sport would not be as popular today if it weren't for Drive to Survive. For the first time, we saw these gladiators as human beings with a full range of emotions, not just carefully curated PR pions.
Daniel Ricciardo told us about the pressure of being an F1 driver, Carlos Sainz told everyone he drives a Volkswagen Golf, Christian Horner explained the politics, and Lewis Hamilton spoke about what it was like growing up black in a white-dominated sport. We got to see them as real people, and we learned what they were passionate about. And we ate it up in big greedy chunks.
For the first time in decades, fans were not just dedicated to a driver because of their skill but also because of the emotional bond they formed via the show. Unfortunately, it also had an unfortunate side effect. The fandom has never been as toxic as it is right now.
To ask these guys to reveal themselves emotionally, only to cut their free speech rights a few years down the line, is a stupid move. One has to wonder where it comes from, but if we had to guess, the Middle East had a significant influence. It's pouring big money into F1 at the moment, and Sebastian Vettel rocking up with a rainbow-colored helmet in a country where homosexuality is outlawed is not a good look. But good for Seb, I say. Vettel is also a well-known environmentalist, which didn't exactly stack up with his job.
But you know what? Vettel knew this and got involved in several charities. At the time of writing, he's saving the bees, campaigning for carbon-neutral fuel, helping disadvantaged kids get into racing, helping women get into racing in Jeddah, and has set up a massive anti-litter campaign.
You might not like his social and political activism, and that's your right. You can moan about it all you want in the comments section below.
Having said that, I have one question; WTF have you done lately except post bitter comments on social media?
Lewis Hamilton is the undisputed poster boy for political commentary in F1. He's an ardent supporter of Black Lives Matter and encouraged several other drivers to bend the knee with him. But that's not all. In 2021, Hamilton established Mission 44, which aims to bring people from more diverse backgrounds into motorsport. He also donated $24 million in 2022 to support youth education and employment. He's even responsible for getting the first black woman onto an F1 podium.
Naturally, with F1's audience being so big, it's the perfect platform to raise awareness for these causes. And instead of admiring a charitable man, the general consensus is that he should get in his car and race.
So before you post a nasty comment, ask yourself one question: What have I done lately?
Also, it's impossible to remove politics from everything, even automotive news. Whenever we report on a new car from China, the Inflation Reduction Act, fuel prices, or President Joe Biden attending any car event, the comments section is a dumpster fire. Seriously, guys. The "Let's Go Brandon" comment has gone far beyond flogging a dead horse. That horse is six-feet under, and you're now just beating the ground with a stick.
Politics is ever present and can't be removed from anything. And even if this rule passes, the FIA has done nothing more than shoot itself in the foot. Most of these guys have social media profiles with millions of followers. If the FIA turns down something a driver wants to say, they'll share it on social media and call the FIA out for not allowing them to say it, causing even more outcry.
All of this boils down to freedom of speech, and I'm a big fan. But here's what most people don't seem to get: It's a two-way street. You are 100% entitled to your opinion. Heck, go ahead and call me a libtard in the comments section below. My Instagram profile link is also there if you want to deliver a more personal message.
But just like you have the right to post your opinions and support whatever political party or cause you want, these guys have the right to do the same.
Instead of banning them from saying anything controversial, allow them to continue with what they've been doing. From your side, you can do one of two things. You can turn the TV off, or you can write a comment on social media saying why you disagree. Nothing is stopping you from doing that. In fact, I encourage it. Banning people's rights to express themselves should never be the answer in any country that calls itself "free."