Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton vowed on Wednesday to continue speaking out despite Formula One’s governing body clamping down on drivers making “political” statements.
The most successful driver in the sport’s history has used his platform to highlight racial injustice, promote diversity and address a range of issues from the environment to human rights.
The governing FIA updated its International Sporting Code last December requiring prior written permission to make or display “political, religious and personal statements or comments” at races.
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, an Emirati who has since said he will stand back from day-to-day affairs in Formula One, said also he did not want to provide “a platform for private personal agenda”.
The move has been criticised by a string of drivers as well as rights groups.
“I wasn’t really watching the news over the winter but I heard it,” Hamilton, 38, told reporters in a video call after the launch of his Mercedes team’s new W14 racecar at Silverstone.
“It doesn’t surprise me, but nothing will stop me from speaking on the things that I’m passionate about and issues that there are.
“I feel the sport does have a responsibility still always to speak out on things, to create awareness on important topics, particularly as we’re travelling to all these different places,” added the Briton.
“So nothing changes really.”
Asked whether he would be prepared to take a penalty, Hamilton added: “It would be silly to say that I would want to get penalty points for speaking out on things.
“But I am still going to be speaking my mind as we still have this platform, there are still a lot of things we need to tackle.”
He said all the drivers were aligned on freedom of speech and praised Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali for his support.
Team mate George Russell said the FIA’s move was “totally unnecessary” and was confident the situation would be resolved before the start of the season on March 5.
“We’re not going to limit our views or our thoughts because of some silly regulation,” he told reporters. “We’re all here to have free speech and share whatever views we may have.”
The first two races of the season are in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Hamilton has in the past called for more change in Saudi Arabia, expressing shock in 2022 at reports of mass executions, and has raced in the Middle East with a rainbow helmet in support of LGBTQ+ rights.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said in a separate call that everyone should be allowed to “speak their mind whilst being respectful to each other.
“I think that’s the ground rules,” he added.