Lewis Hamilton on difficult season for Mercedes in November
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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has voiced his support for the FIA’s ban on drivers making political statements, which could affect Lewis Hamilton when the new season gets underway next month. The ban was recently announced by FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, who insisted that drivers will no longer be allowed to use the sport’s platform to make statements for their own ‘personal agenda’.
The new measure has been widely criticised and has drawn accusations of indirectly targeting Hamilton, who has often used his voice and worn T-shirts with messages about racial inequality at previous Grand Prix weekends. Horner has since weighed in on the debate by backing the ban, with the 49-year-old insisting that F1 should not be used for political purposes by any driver on the grid.
“F1 is not a political sport and it shouldn’t be used politically,” he said. “We’re a sport, we’re a form of entertainment and a form of escapism from some of the s*** going on in the world.”
Horner went on to add that the FIA plays ‘an important role in the regulation of the sport’ and that ‘there will always be freedom of expression and freedom of speech’ regardless of the ban on making political statements at Grand Prix events, with drivers always being given ‘the ability to speak their minds’.
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Several drivers have spoken out against the new rule over the last few weeks including Red Bull ace Max Verstappen, who insisted at the team’s season launch in New York that his fellow competitors should be allowed to voice their concerns if they feel they need to.
“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 ban] 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.”
Hamilton’s former Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas has also criticised the FIA’s decision since it was announced last month, with the Finn telling Sky Sports: “I think everybody should be allowed to say what they want and do more things that they want or have passion for.
“In a way, I don’t see the need for that kind of thing to be in the rules but if you take it politically, let’s say from F1’s side or the organiser’s side of a race, they want everything to go smoothly, but normally when we’ve been speaking it’s to try and make the world a better place. That’s my view. I don’t think it’s necessary but that’s Formula One.”
Drivers will be found to have breached the new rule if they make ‘political, religious and personal statements or comments notably in violation of the general principle of neutrality promoted by the FIA under its statutes, unless previously approved in writing by the FIA for international competitions, or by the relevant ASN for national competitions within their jurisdiction’.
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