Verstappen: FIA ban on political statements 'a bit unnecessary'

© XPB 

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen believes the FIA's decision to censure drivers on political issues is "a bit unnecessary".

Last December, the FIA amended its International Sporting Code by adding a provision that bans drivers from expressing or displaying "political, religious and personal statements", unless previously approved by the governing body.

The likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel often used F1's platform on race day to denounce social injustice, inequalities, or environmental change issues.

While drivers were given full freedom of speech by the governing body under its previous regime, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem believes that neutrality and restraint should now prevail, and that drivers, as the stars of the show, should stick to what they do best: driving.

"We are concerned with building bridges," commented Ben Sulayem earlier this year. "You can use sport for peace reasons and all of this.

"But one thing we don’t want is to have the FIA as a platform for private personal agenda. We will divert from the sport."

While Verstappen is among those on the grid that prefers to keep his opinion on controversial matters that have nothing to do with the sport under wraps, the Red Bull charger has voiced his concerns with the FIA's censorship initiative.

"I think personally everyone’s different," Verstappen told Sky Sports F1.

"Some people are more outspoken than others, I’m not normally that outspoken of that because first all of it’s tough as a racing driver to be fully committed as well in terms of going into everything and making sure you know all the facts right.

"But I don’t think that it is necessary because in a way you are basically making sure that people are not allowed to speak anymore, which I think we should be allowed.

"And of course, like I said before, some people will speak more, some not, but it was probably a bit unnecessary, yeah."

So far, Lewis Hamilton has yet to express his view on the FIA's new policy. But his former Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, like Verstappen, was also at odds with the governing body's crackdown on free speech.

"I do not understand why they want to control us," said Bottas at the ROC in Sweden last week. "I think we should have the right to talk about what we want. That is how I see it, but we will see what happens."

And Verstappen's boss, Christian Horner, also echoed his drivers' concerns, insisting F1 shouldn't have "a load of robots that are without an opinion going racing".

"We certainly at Red Bull have never constrained our drivers of their freedom of speech, or the ability to speak their minds because they do have a voice," he said.

"I think it’s a matter of finding a balance. In the world that we live in today, everybody has a voice and that shouldn’t be suppressed.

"But of course, it does have to be done responsibly. So, we don’t want a load of robots that are without a opinion going racing.

"Like with all things, it just has to be a sensible balance."

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Aston Martin F1 Team at the end of year drivers' photograph. 20.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Race

F1 drivers' criticism of the FIA's policy shift on the matter will likely do little to help diffuse the tension that has built up lately between Formula 1 and Ben Sulayem.

Ben Sulayem's public support of the Andretti-Cadillac project and the US outfit's entry into F1 has ruffled the teams' feathers, but the FIA president crossed the line when he publicly trashed the valuation assigned to F1 following rumors of a potential sale of the sport by commercial rights holder Liberty Media to Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund.

But despite the lingering tensions, Verstappen is hopeful that cooler heads will prevail and that the current unease between F1 and the FIA's president will eventually dissipate.

"I always think that is very important and I’m sure of course, they are talking and I’m sure they also want to have a good relationship," said the Dutchman.

"And, yeah, let’s hope of course that will be resolved soon."

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter