Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton insisted he will not be silenced by offseason rules that prohibit drivers from speaking out on political issues.
Hamilton said Wednesday he will continue to use his global platform to promote his wide-ranging interests, which include social justice and race, human rights and protection of the LBGTQ community.
The FIA in December updated its International Sporting Code to require prior written permission for drivers to make or display “political, religious and personal statements or comments” during race weekends. The FIA is the governing body for Formula One.
The crackdown on free speech has been condemned by most drivers but Hamilton only weighed in for the first time Wednesday, when Mercedes revealed its 2023 car.
Hamilton said the FIA crackdown “doesn’t surprise me” but he quickly dismissed it when he learned about it over the offseason.
“Nothing will stop me from speaking on the things that I feel that I’m passionate about and issues there are,” Hamilton said. “I feel the sport does have a responsibility, still, always, to speak out as a means to create awareness on important topics, particularly as we are traveling to all these different places, so nothing changes.”
Asked if he was prepared to be penalized by the FIA for violating the new rule, Hamilton said “it would be silly to say I would want to take extra penalty points” but remained steadfast in that he won’t be silenced.
“I’m still going to be speaking on my end,” Hamilton said. “We still have this platform. There’s a lot of things we need to tackle.”
Most of the drivers have spoken out against the new rule and most recently by F1 boss Stefano Domenicali, who recently told The Guardian newspaper the series would not be imposing any sort of gag. Domenicali said he expected the FIA to soon clarify its position.
Hamilton is the most vocal driver in F1 and remains the same change agent 17 years into his career as when he became the first Black winner in F1 in 2008. The British racer is now 38 years old, the winningest driver in series history and is tied with Michael Schumacher with a record seven titles.
Hamilton remains the only Black driver at the most elite level of motorsports.
Hamilton often speaks out while racing in countries with questionable human rights records, or when an issue arises in which he feels his voice can lend support, which would be banned under the new FIA rule.
Hamilton last year sparred with the FIA over its crackdown of drivers wearing jewelry in the car and mocked the rule by arriving at a news conference wearing three watches, eight rings and multiple necklaces. Hamilton and the FIA had a protracted back-and-forth over the jewelry ban in which he received an extension on a deadline to remove some piercings; the two sides eventually came to an agreement.
Hamilton’s teammate George Russell is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, which represents F1 drivers, and shared the criticism of the FIA’s attempt to limit drivers’ speech.
“I think it’s totally unnecessary in the sport and in the world we live at the moment. Naturally, we are obviously seeking clarification and I trust it will be resolved,” Russell said Wednesday.
He added: “We’re not going to limit our views or our thoughts because of some silly regulation. We’re all here to have free speech and share whatever views we may have.”
AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports