Christian Horner backs FIA ban on political statements: ‘F1 a form of escapism’
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has declared his support for Formula 1’s clampdown on political statements, claiming the sport is meant to be “a form of escapism from some of the s–t going on in the world.”
Last December, the FIA announced a ban on “the general making and display of political, religious and personal statements or comments” by participants without the permission of the governing body, with a failure to comply with the new protocol regarded as a breach of the regulations.
The move, which came after the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton had used their platforms to advance various social and environmental causes in recent years, was heavily criticised in some quarters with the FIA accused of effectively gagging the drivers.
The subject has become a theme of the 2023 launch season with various drivers expressing concern over the clampdown.
Valtteri Bottas, the Alfa Romeo driver, told Swedish newspaper Expressen of his bemusement of the FIA’s attempts to “control us”, with Alex Albon calling for clarity at the launch of Williams’ new car.
“A lot of people come to us and look at us as spokespeople for issues around the world and I do feel like it is a responsibility for drivers to make people aware of these kind of situations,” Albon said. “We’re all concerned.”
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However, Horner is adamant that the sport should not be used as a platform for “political gain” and has welcomed the attempt to keep the focus on entertainment.
He told the New York Post: “F1 is not a political sport and it shouldn’t be used politically.
“We’re a sport; we’re a form of entertainment and a form of escapism from some of the s–t going on in the world.”
Horner rejected the notion that the clampdown is an attack on the drivers’ freedom of speech, adding: “We’ve always given the drivers the ability to speak their minds.”
Let sport be sport and let racing drivers be racing drivers
It was Arrigo Sacchi, the great Italian football manager, who said it best: “Football is the most important of the least important things in life.”
There is a reason why the sports desk of a newspaper used to be known as the toy department but over recent years sport has started to take itself a little too seriously, to the extent that it has lost sight of where it truly stands in the world.
By far the most troubling comments since the FIA’s ban on political statements was announced came from Albon, who claimed this week that people look at the 20 drivers “as spokespeople for issues around the world.”
Who exactly? Whoever bestowed such importance on a group of racing drivers?
Albon’s visible discomfort when later discussing the clampdown on camera revealed a truth: that racing drivers – in fact, most elite athletes – are on the whole a bunch of lemmings who do what they’re told to do and say what they’re told will go down well.
Those who regard the ban as an attack on free speech seem to ignore the fact that it also blocks political and religious statements that may be deemed outrageous or even offensive. After all, free speech in its truest form is about having to hear voices you disagree with as well as listening to those you do…
Better, then, to leave the politics to the politicians and keep the circuit sacrosanct. If the drivers want to “use their platforms” away from F1, they remain free to do so.
But on a grand prix weekend? Let the racetrack be a place of neutrality, let sport be sport and let racing drivers be racing drivers.