In December, the FIA announced a change to their regulations that would prohibit drivers from making political, religious, or personal statements during race weekends without prior approval. This new rule has caused a stir within the F1 community, as drivers have often used their platform to speak out on various issues, such as racism and environmental activism.
One driver who has weighed in on the rule change is Nico Hulkenberg, who is set to make his return to F1 with Haas after serving as a reserve driver for Aston Martin for the past two seasons. Hulkenberg stated in an interview with RTL that while the rule would not personally affect him, it could impact other drivers who have used their platform to make statements on important issues. He said:
“It’s a delicate, difficult subject. We are athletes, we come to a country, a region, to do our job to pursue what we love. I have never been someone who has used this platform for political messages. It won’t affect or impact me that much. It will affect others more. I think it’s a personal story. Everyone has a personal take on it.”
F1 drivers have often used their large platform as an opportunity to stand up for what they believe in. For example, seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton was a driving force behind the drivers taking a knee before races in 2020 as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Both Hamilton and recently retired Sebastian Vettel have also been active in the LGBTQ+ community, environmental activism, and the fight against racism.
It remains to be seen how this rule change will be enforced and what impact it will have on drivers who wish to use their platform to make political, religious, or personal statements. However, it is clear that the F1 community is divided on the issue, with some seeing it as a necessary measure to maintain neutrality, while others believe it could stifle important conversations and activism within the sport.